ANAHEIM, Calif. – After making three out of four shots and jumping out to a 7-0 lead to start the game Thursday, UC Santa Barbara went colder than the slab of hockey ice under the basketball floor at Honda Center and the result was a resounding 69-38 loss to Cal Poly in the first round of the Big West Conference Tournament.
While the Gauchos (21-9) were going ice cold, the Mustangs (11-19) were heating up.
UCSB took a 12-7 lead on a three-pointer by Michael Bryson with 14:06 to play in the first half and didn't score again until Alan Williams made a lay-up with 7:04 left, but by that time Cal Poly had gone on a 15-0 run and taken a lead it would not relinquish.
"For a team that was 10-19 coming in, having lost nine of its last 11 Big West games, I thought Cal Poly was outstanding," said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. "We just didn't have any answers when things started to snowball and this was the result. Honestly, I'm shocked. I didn't expect anything like that."
UCSB closed the first half by missing 15 of its final 20 shots. On the other hand, the Mustangs made 13-of-18 to storm into the locker room with a 41-20 lead.
The Gauchos inched closer over the first few minutes of the second half and the lead was down to 42-26 when Williams made a short jump hook with 15:59 left in the game. However, UCSB was unable to take advantage after forcing Cal Poly into a pair of misses and Ridge Shipley countered with a three-pointer to push the edge back to 45-26.
Another short jumper by Williams temporarily stemmed the tide. The Mustangs Chris Eversley and Santa Barbara's Bryson traded threes and with 12:50 remaining it was 48-31.
"When we made it a little closer early in the second half, I hoped we had a run left in us," Bob William said. "But today, we just didn't have that run, we couldn't sustain anything."
Over the next 9:03, Cal Poly went on a devastating 21-2 surge to put the game away, 69-33 with 3:47 left in the game. The push ended when Bryson made a lay-up.
Bryson was the only UCSB player to have a solid offensive game. He made 7-of-10 shots overall, including 5-of-8 from three-point range, and finished with 19 points. Williams, who was pounded all day by a host of Mustang defenders, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Gauchos shot a season-low 32.7% form the floor. Cal Poly was at 43.1% from the field and 85.0% (17-of-20) from the free throw line. UCSB attempted just four free throws and didn't make any. Shipley led a balanced Mustang attck with 15 points. Joel Awich and Dave Nwaba each had 11.
Santa Barbara will now hope for the opportunity to continue its season. The Gauchos should find out late Sunday if that hope turns into a reality.