Williams, Gauchos Battle Hard Before Falling at No. 5 Kansas, 69-59

Gabe Vincent (Photo by Laura Jacobsen)
Gabe Vincent (Photo by Laura Jacobsen)

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Alan Williams recorded a double-double and UC Santa Barbara put up a ferocious fight Friday night at fifth-ranked Kansas before falling 69-59 in the season-opener for both teams.The game was played in front of 16,300 at fabled Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

Williams finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and a pair of assists to help keep the Gauchos in the game, but they struggled from outside the three-point arc, making just 4-of-19 attempts, and that proved too much to overcome against a Jayhawk team that has now won 43 consecutive home openers. 

"I thought we got a lot of good looks, but we just couldn't knock the shots down," said head coach Bob Williams. "We did a lot of good things tonight, but against a team like Kansas, you have to take advantage of your open looks to have a chance, especially in their building." 

The game was a defensive slugfest early. UCSB took a 15-14 lead when Williams made a pair of free throws with 7:47 left in the first half, but Davonte Graham scored six points during a 9-0 run that pushed KU into a 23-15 advantage with 6:05 remaining. The teams traded baskets the rest of the half and it was 31-23 at the break. 

The Jayhawks had a 39-27 lead when Frank Mason III made a driving lay-up with 17:12 left in the game, but over the next 3:02, the Gauchos ran off 10 unanswered points, pulling to within 39-37 at the 14:10 mark.

Michael Bryson started the run with a jump-hook from the right baseline. Williams followed with a floater in the middle of the lane and then freshman Gabe Vincent and senior Zalmico Harmon made consecutive three-point baskets to shave the lead to 39-37. 

Kansas answered with a 19-6 surge to claim an insurmountable 58-43 lead with 9:01 left on the clock. 

"After we cut the lead to two we just made some mistakes and missed some more open shots and a great team took advantage," said Coach Williams. "Coach (Bill) Self really gets his team to play defense and at that point they made it really difficult for us."

The lead never expanded past 15 nor dropped below 10 the rest of the way. 

In addition to the play of Williams, junior John Green and the freshman, Vincent, were impressive for UCSB. Green, who played just four games over his first three ful seasons, fouled out in 16 minutes, but he did so having made 4-of-7 shots and scored nine points. 

"This is like a dream come true," Green said. "As a little kid you dream about playing in a place like this, in front of a crowd like this, so for me to come back and have this opportunity is really special. I was very excited to re-start my career." 

Vincent had seven points, three rebounds and a pair of steals in his 29 minutes. 

"I thought Gabe did some very good things out there tonight," Coach Williams said. "He is an outstanding shooter, so I don't worry about that, but he just generally looked like he belonged out there, and he did."

Vincent made two of the Gauchos' four three-point baskets.

Graham finished with 14 points to lead KU. Perry Ellis had 13 points, 10 rebounds and some kind words for Alan Williams after the game.

"Boy, he can really play," Ellis said of his counterpart. "He has such great feet and hands, a great touch with his right hand and he is a monster rebounder." 

The Jayhawks had major advantages in rebounds (42-31) and free throws (23-9), which also contributed to the defeat.

UCSB will remain on the road to face Florida-Gulf Coast on Monday, Nov. 17 at 4:00 p.m. (PST). The game will be carried live starting with the pre-game show at 3:30 p.m. (PST) on AM 1290 KZSB in Santa Barbara. It can we viewed on ESPN3 or on the Watch ESPN app. For those hoping to view the game, they must have a username and password provided by their cable or satellite operator.