HONOLULU – UC Santa Barbara made four key three-point baskets down the stretch, two by Michael Bryson, in a come-from-behind 75-64 win at the University of Hawaii on Thursday night. UCSB remains tied for first in the Big West with UC Irvine.
The Gauchos (15-6 overall, 6-2 in the Big West), who have now won three in a row for the fourth time this season, were led by Alan Williams who had 20 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots. They defeated a Rainbow Warrior (15-7 overall, 4-4 in the Big West) team that led by as many as nine points in the first half, but settled for a 37-34 lead at the break.
UCSB wasted no time setting the tone in the second half as Zalmico Harmon's three opened the scoring and sent his team on a 21-9 run over the first 7:38, giving the Gauchos a 55-46 lead. Mitch Brewe's rebounding and energy also played a key role during that stretch as he had both of his points and six of his eight rebounds.
"The start of the second half was big for us," said head coach Bob Williams. "We came out and played with a lot of fire. Z making the three to start things and then Mitch battling for every rebound, they were huge."
Santa Barbara never fell behind the rest of the way, but it was a trio of big three-pointers that made the difference.
The first of the big triples came when Taran Brown nailed a 22-footer with the shot clock buzzer sounding to push a 59-54 lead to 62-54 with 6:43 remaining in the game.
The second of the trio of threes once again came with UCSB nursing a five-point lead, 62-57, when Harmon pulled up and drained a shot from 20-feet out on the right side to make it 65-57 with 3:54 left.
The third nail in Hawaii's coffin came just second later as Bryson hit from about 22-feet on the right side with 3:02 to play, giving the Gauchos a 68-59 lead.
Bryson also provided the final dagger with just 1:21 on the clock as he hit a bomb from 25-feet straight out to push the edge to 73-61. Bryson finished with 18 points.
"As a team we made a lot of big plays in the second half," Williams said. "But those were four really big threes. I can't remember a game in recent years when we made that many big threes in the final six or seven minutes of a game."
The Warriors sent the Gauchos to the line in the waning seconds, but it didn't matter as the game had been decided.
Brown finished with 13 points and three rebounds, but he had a huge tip of a missed free throw by Alan Williams that allowed Santa Barbara to retain possession late in the game. Harmon had 10 points, three assists and made both of his three-point attempts.
After being soundly outrebounded in the early going, UCSB finished with a 42-41 rebound advantage. The Gauchos also finished at 43.9% overall from the field, but they made 53.8% in the second half. Hawaii shot 36.8% and only 32.1% in the final 20 minutes. The Warriors also struggled from beyond the three-point arc as they made just 3-of-19 and just 1-of-9 in the second half.
Hawaii was led by Isaac Fotu who had 17 points and eight rebounds while Christian Standhardinger finished with 15 points and nine boards.
UCSB returns to the mainland on Friday, but will have a rare bye on Saturday. The Gauchos will travel to rival Long Beach State on Thursday, Feb. 13 for a 7:00 p.m. game. They return home on Saturday, Feb. 15 to host Cal State Northridge in a 4:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome. Tickets can be purchased by dropping by the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking here.