LONG BEACH, Calif. - Michael Bryson's put-back as the buzzer sounded gave UC Santa Barbara a thrilling 65-64 win at Long Beach State on Thursday night at the Walter Pyramid.
Bryson's basket gave UCSB (16-6 overall, 7-2 in the Big West) a fourth consecutive win for the first time since 2011-12 and its first win over the 49ers (10-14, 6-4) on the road since 2008. The basket also ended a game of huge momentum swings.
The game-winner came after the Gauchos' Alan Williams short jump hook bounced off the rim. With three defenders going up with the Big West's leading scorer, it left Bryson free on the right side of the iron to collect the rebound and make a shot that bounced a few times on rim before dropping through as the final horn sounded, stunning the crowd and sending the UCSB bench into a wild celebration.
"There was no question that the last play was gong to Big Al," said head coach Bob Williams. "It had to go through him and he got a very good look and a good shot. It was huge that Michael was there for the follow."
The tense final minutes of the game began to take shape when Long Beach's Branford Jones made a three-point basket with 4:35 remaining to tie the game at 60. It was the first tie since the Gauchos took their first lead of the game with 1:37 to play in the first half.
After Alan Williams missed a pair of free throws with 4:11 left, Tyler Lamb responded with a free throw line jumper to give the 49ers their first lead of the second half, 62-60, with 2:52 on the clock.
Taran Brown cut the lead in half for Santa Barbara when he made one out of two free throws with 2:15 to play. A missed jumper by Mike Caffey on the other end gave the ball back to UCSB and this time, Eric Childress found Williams inside for a turnaround that put the Gauchos back on top, 63-62 with 1:13 left.
Dan Jennings missed two free throws with 46 seconds to play and Santa Barbara rebounded again, but on the ensuing possession, Bryson missed a tough lay-up after coming around a screen from Williams. Long Beach rebounded and Caffey was fouled by Zalmico Harmon with 16 seconds on the clock. Caffey made both free throws to give his team a temporary 64-63 lead and set the stage for the games thrilling finish.
"It feels great to win here," Bryson said. "I thought there was some contact on that first one, but in the big picture, it doesn't matter. I got a second chance and made it count. They (the 49ers) are a great team, especially here at home, so that makes it even sweeter."
Bryson finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Williams had a game-high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and a pair of steals for the Gauchos. Kyle Boswell and Eric Childress each added 11. It was a career-high for Childress.
The Gauchos trailed by as many as nine points in the first half before taking the seven-point halftime lead. They were able to get back in the game, in great part, because they made 16 of 19 free throws in the first 20 minutes. In the second half, the free throw line wasn't as friendly and almost cost them the game as they went 5-for-12.
Long Beach was led by Lamb with 13 points. Caffey added 11 points and four assist, but he was also forced into four six turnovers. Combined, Lamb and Caffey, the 49ers two leading scorers, made just 8-of-26 shots from the field.
As a team, UCSB made 45.5% of its shots while its opponent hit 43.1%. The Gauchos also won the rebound battle, 32-29.
Santa Barbara returns home on Saturday, Feb. 15 for a 4:00 p.m. game against Cal State Northridge at the Thunderdome. Plenty of great tickets are available and can be purchased from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking here.