SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A 17-1 run late in the second half proved decisive as UC Santa Barbara overcame severe foul trouble on its way to a 72-61 win at the University of San Diego on Sunday afternoon.
Trailing 47-46 with 9:06 to play in the game, the Gauchos (5-3) began their decisive run.
San Diego-native Sam Beeler made 1-of-2 free throws and Kyle Boswell drilled a long three-pointer with 8:29 left, giving UCSB a 50-47 edge. USD's Simi Famemisin made 1-of-2 from the line to temporarily stem the momentum.
The key word being 'temporarily'.
Michael Bryson, who finished with a game-high 21 points for UCSB, scored on a reverse lay-up off a perfect feed from Alan Williams. Williams then made a lay-up and a running hook shot to push the lead to 56-48 with 6:05 left.
Zalamico Harmon went around a screen by Williams and drained a floater from the baseline with 4:33 to play giving the Gauchos their first double-digit lead of the game, 58-48. A driving lay-up by Eric Childress and a free throw made the score 61-48 with 3:43 left, and then a free throw apiece by Williams and Childress gave UCSB a 63-48 lead with 2:23 remaining.
A three-pointer by Johnny Dee with 2:14 to play ended the run, but the game had been decided.
"We went with the smaller lineup there and I thought that was key for us," said head coach Bob Williams. "Zalmico and Eric make such good decisions and that started to open some things up for the other guys."
The Gauchos saw their leading scorer and rebounder Williams saddled with two fouls in the first 2:30 of the first half, sending him to the bench and not long after that, Taran Brown went to the bench with his second foul. Williams was tagged with another foul early in the second half and then his fourth with 8:01 left in the game, but he never left.
Despite playing the final 17:09 of the first half without Williams, UCSB took a 34-30 lead in to the break. Bryson had 11 points in the first half, making all three of his three-point attempts. Boswell added nine and Mitch Brewe had seven, including the first three-pointer of his career.
"It was huge for us to lead by four at half after losing Big Al and Taran," Coach Williams said. "We had some guys really step-up. Bryson, Boswell and Brewe were so good during that time."
Bryson finished 5-of-7 from three-point range and 8-for-12 overall. Harmon had five assists to go with 11 points while Boswell finished with 12 points, four assists and three rebounds. Despite going scoreless in the first half, Williams had 11 and seven rebounds.
As a team, the Gauchos made 53.5% of their shots, including 9-of-20 from beyond the arc. Duda Sanadze led the Toreros (8-4) with 19 while Dee had 18.
The Gauchos will embark on their longest road trip of the season when they leave on Tuesday morning for the Basketball Traveler's Classic in Logan, Utah. UCSB will play Troy University on Thursday night, host Utah State on Friday and Western Illinois on Saturday before returning to Santa Barbara on Dec. 22. Thursday's game against Troy will tip-off at 4:30 p.m. (PST).