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Gauchos Lead from Start to Finish, Defeat UC Irvine 80-60

Taran Brown (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Taran Brown (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Alan Williams had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Taran Brown made all five of his three-pointers and scored 16 as UC Santa Barbara beat UC Irvine in a showdown of Big West Conference contenders on Thursday night, 80-60. 

Led by Brown who made two early threes, UCSB (13-6 overall, 4-2 in the Big West) jumped out to first half leads of 13-0 and 17-2 before UCI (13-9, 4-2) scratched back to cut the gap to 18-13. The Gauchos responded, outscoring the Anteaters 16-11 the rest of the way to take a 34-24 lead at the half. 

"I thought Taran Brown was phenomenal in the first half," said head coach Bob Williams. "Not only did he make his shots, it seemed like he went after every rebound. When Taran plays like he did tonight, we are just a better team."

Santa Barbara added to its lead early in the second half, pushing it to 50-30 on a jumper by Williams with 14:25 to play in the game. UCI used back-to-back three-pointers by Luke Nelson to pull within 50-36, but the Gauchos answered with threes from Brown and Kyle Boswell to push the advantage back to 20, 56-36. 

The lead ballooned to 61-39 on a pair of Williams free throws with 8:41 to play and never slipped below 14 the rest of the way.

"This week we had some of the best practices that we've had since before going to Utah State in December," Williams said. "We had more people available and the difference showed tonight." 

Alan Williams had his eighth double-double of the season, and he was particularly outstanding in the second half when he scored 20 of his 26 points and made seven of his nine field goal attempts.

"Alan is just so automatic for us," Bob Williams said. "He has become so dependable and it seems like he is improving every day." 

Williams, along with Mitch Brewe who had eight points and six rebounds, did a solid defensive job on Irvine's 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye. Ndiaye finished the night with just four points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.

Boswell added 10 points for the Gauchos while Zalmico Harmon had seven, along with a game-high six assists. Freshman guard Luke Nelson was outstanding for the Anteaters as he made six three-pointers and scored 26 points.

As a team, UCSB hit 24-of-49 shots overall, 49.0%, and 8-of-17 from three-point territory, 47.1%. UCI, meanwhile, made just 20-of-56 overall, 35.7%, and 9-of-29 from outside the arc, 31.0%. 

Santa Barbara has now won four of its last five and seven of nine. The Anteaters lost for the second straight time in Big West play after opening the conference season at 4-0. 

The Gauchos will host UC Davis on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Tickets are available from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking here.