SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara opened the second half on a 21-3 run to blow open a close game en route to an 81-55 win over visiting UC Riverside on Thursday night.
The Gauchos (16-12 overall, 10-5 in the Big West), who won their seventh game in a row, led the Highlanders (14-17, 5-10) 40-35 at halftime, but exploded out of the locker room, making eight of their first 10 shots to push the lead to 61-38 on a three-pointer by John Green with 12:24 to play. They cruised from there.
Michael Bryson scored 11 of his game-high 16 points in the second half. Green, who made his first five shots, including four three-pointers, added 14 points. He scored eight of his points in the first half.
"John Green was sensational in the first half," said head coach Bob Williams. "We were a little up-and-down and he helped us stay out front. He's shooting the ball with a lot of confidence. This is how he was playing last year and he's doing it at the right time."
Green had 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the Gauchos' last game, a Feb. 27 win at Cal State Fullerton.
"We are trying to finish the regular season with some momentum," Green said. "We're playing well right now and I'm glad I've been able to contribute. I've been working a lot on my shooting, getting a lot of extra shots up, and it is nice when that pays off."
In the second half, UCSB tightened the noose defensively and started finding the range on the offensive end. As a team, the Gauchos made 58.3% overall in the second half, including 7-of-13 from three-point range, 53.8%. On the other end of the court, Riverside shot a solid 46.7% in the first half, but in the second half it was a different story as it made just 6-of-28 shots, 21.4%, and 2-for-14 from three-point range, 14.3%.
"The difference in the game was our defense in the second half," Williams said. "Michael (Bryson) didn't miss an assignment in the final 20 minutes, he was outstanding. Really, I thought all of our guys contributed on both ends in the second half."
The Gauchos had a lot of balance in support of Bryson and Green. Vincent added 11 points, freshman Jarriesse Blackmon had a career-high nine, Sam Beeler made all four of his field goal attempts and finished with eight, Eric Childress had seven points and a team-high five assists, and T.J. Taylor and DaJuan Smith each chipped in six.
The game marked the third in a row in which UCSB has led by 25 or more points in the second half and it was the 38th straight win when holding an opponent under 60 points. The seven consecutive wins mark the longest streak in Big West games in school history.
The Highlanders were led by Jaylen Bland, Gentrey Thomas and Menno Dijkstra who each scored 10 points.
UCSB will play its final home game of the season on Saturday, Mar. 5 when it hosts Cal Poly in a Blue-Green Rivalry game. The game, which will tip-off at 4:00 p.m., will mark the final home appearance for six Gaucho seniors: Michael Bryson, Sam Beeler, John Green, Mitch Brewe, T.J. Taylor and DaJuan Smith. They will be honored in a ceremony following the game.