SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – USC used a 15-2 run over a seven minute span in the second half to overcome a 42-41 deficit and take a commanding 56-44 lead en route to a 75-63 win at UC Santa Barbara on Thursday.
Michael Bryson made a three-pointer with 17:37 remaining in the game to give the Gauchos (2-4) a brief 42-41 lead before the Trojans (6-2) went on their run to take a lead they never relinquished. Elijah Stewart scored seven of his team-high 15 points during the stretch, including a three-pointer with 13:36 to play to push the lead to 56-44.
UCSB fought back, pulling within 61-59 on a three-point basket by Gabe Vincent with 5:54 on the clock, but Julian Jacobs responded with a three-pointer of his own just seconds later to kick start a 14-4 game-ending run for USC.
"We didn't play with as much energy and urgency as I expected," said head coach Bob Williams. "With a good crowd, against a Pac 12 opponent I expected more."
The Gauchos stayed in the game to a great extent by making three-point baskets, finishing with a season-high 10. They shot 52.6% from outside the arc and have now made 50.0% or better in each of the last two games.
The Trojans, however, were too much on the glass as they won the battle of the boards by a 46-32 margin. They also outscored UCSB 18-3 from the free throw line.
"They are really athletic and long and that caused us a lot of problems inside," Williams said. "They had 18 offensive rebounds and that was just too much. They only had eight blocked shots, but it seemed like more. We also have to find a way to get to the free throw line more. We just can't keep getting outscored like that at the line."
Vincent made 4-of-7 three-point attempts and finished with a game-high 16 points. Bryson hit 3-of-6 threes and had 15 points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds.
USC had four players in double-figures. In addition to Stewart, Nikola Jovanovic made all 10 of his free throw attempts and finished with 14 points. Jacobs had 12 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals, and Chimezie Metu added 10 points.
The Gauchos will take the next several days off for final exams. They will return to action on Sunday, Dec. 13 when they travel to South Dakota State for a 12:00 p.m. (PST) game against the Jackrabbits.