BROOKINGS, S.D. – South Dakota State shot a sizzling 58.3%, including 66.7% in the first half, to break open a close game and defeat UC Santa Barbara, 86-68 on Sunday afternoon in Brookings, S.D.
The Gauchos (2-5) fought back from an eight-point deficit midway through the first half to take a one-point lead on three occasions, but the Jackrabbits (9-1) were too much offensively. They claimed a 51-42 halftime lead and then expanded the advantage to 23 with 3:42 left in the game before settling in for the 18-point win.
"They are a very good offensive team and can beat you from anywhere on the court," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "In the first half their big guy really set the tone and, frankly, most of our big guys just didn't respond. In the second half, their perimeter players really got it going."
South Dakota State center Mike Daum scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half, including seven at the free throw line. Deondre Parks, the Jackrabbits leading scorer on the season, was quiet for much of the first half, but he scored six points in the final 2:38 put some distance between the teams and then finished with a game-high 23 points. Jake Bittle made all five of his shots, including a pair of threes, and finished with 14 points.
The Gauchos, meanwhile, struggled with their three-point shooting, particularly in the second half. After making 1-for-5 in the first half, they missed their first nine attempts in the second half and finished 2-of-18 for the game, 11.1%.
"We're a team that depends on making some three-pointers to be successful and it makes it really tough when we shoot like we did today," Williams said. "I know we are a much better shooting team than that."
Michael Bryson scored a team-high 21 points, moving into 20th-place on the school's all-time scoring list in the process with 1,054 points. Bryson also added six rebounds and five assists to lead UCSB. John Green was the only other player in double-figures with 15 points. One of the team's top offensive players, sophomore Gabe Vincent, missed all three of his field goal attempts and had four points. Sophomore Alex Hart set a career-high with eight points, also adding three rebounds.
"I thought Alex was a bright spot," Williams said. "He fought, made some shots and got his hands on a lot of balls. That was good to see."
After shooting 57.1% from the field in the first half, the Gauchos cooled off and made just 32.1% in the second half, finishing at 44.6% for the game. They did attempt a season-high 23 free throws after a two-game span in which they totaled 14.
"We know we have to get to the line more than we have," Williams said. "And today we did."
Santa Barbara has now dropped three straight games and will remain on the road for a game at the University of Vermont on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 4:00 p.m. (PST).