Bryson Paces Resilient Gauchos Past UC Davis, 67-54

Michael Bryson (Photo by Matt Brown)
Michael Bryson (Photo by Matt Brown)

DAVIS, Calif. – On a night when its leading scorer and rebounder was limited to 16 minutes before fouling out, UC Santa Barbara got 19 points from Michael Bryson and outrebounded UC Davis 43-20 en route to a 67-54 road win on Saturday.

Alan Williams fouled out and the Gauchos (19-8 overall, 10-4 in the Big West) also had to overcome a raucous season-high crowd of 5,227 for the Aggies (9-20, 4-10) to win at game that was televised on ESPN2.

"This was a great atmosphere to play in front of," said Bryson, who is a native of nearby Sacramento and had numerous friends and family in attendance. "I think this was the best crowd we've played in front of all year, so I was a little hyped-up." 

If anything, UCD seemed a little nervous in front of a crowd that was more than three times the size of its average attendance, and UCSB took advantage, jumping out to a 9-0 lead on a lay-up by Taran Brown with 14:30 left in the first half. 

The Aggies broke the ice with a pair of free throws from Clint Bozner but didn't make a field goal until Corey Hawkins hit a 15-foot jumper with 12:32 to play, cutting the Gauchos' lead to 12-4. 

Santa Barbara led 16-6 with 8:41 on the first half clock, but a 9-2 Davis run pulled the home team within 18-15 with just over six to play. 

The Gauchos responded. The half ended with a Zalmico Harmon baseline jumper and a lay-up by Shawn Moore to give them a 32-23 lead.

Williams, who came into the game averaging more than 22 points and 11 rebounds per game, had four points and eight rebounds in the first half, but he also had two fouls.

He opened the second half by making a short jump hook to kick-start an 8-0 run by the Gauchos. A pair of free throws by Mitch Brewe, and a dunk and 10-foot jumper from Bryson pushed the lead to 40-23 with 17:25 left in the game. 

But mixed in with the eight points by UCSB were a pair of fouls by Williams, the second coming with 18:30 left and forcing him to the bench. 

"I thought we had some guys step-up when Al went to the bench early in the second half," head coach Bob Williams said. "The fact that we maintained the lead until we brought him back was huge."

The Gauchos led by 13 when Williams went to the sidelines and still led by the same margin when he returned with 7:17 left in the game. But less than two minutes after he came back in, Williams committed his fifth foul and departed for good with 5:41 to play and his team leading 53-41.

Williams finished with a season-low eight points, but he also had 10 rebounds.

A long three-pointer from the right side by Ryan Sypkens was the first basket after Williams' departure and it whittled UCSB's lead to single-digits for the first time in the second half, 53-44 with 4:58 remaining. 

Eric Childress answered with a lay-up to extend the lead back to 55-44, but Avery Johnson was fouled while making a hanging lay-up with 4:04 left. He made the free throw and the lead was down to 55-47. 

Again the Gauchos responded as Bryson was fouled going up for a shot in the middle of the key. He made both free throws and the edge was back to 10, 57-47.

UCD's Brynton Lemar made a lay-up, but then it was time for another response by Childress.

With the shot clock winding down and the crowd in a frenzy, Harmon drove down the left side of the lane, found Childress open in the left corner and the freshman guard drained a three-pointer to make it 60-49 Gauchos with 2:46 left, essentially ending the game. 

"That was the biggest shot of the game," Coach Williams said. "Z (Harmon) really set him up, but for a freshman to hit that shot is huge."

The lead never dipped under 10 the rest of the way. 

Bryson added seven rebounds and a pair of steals to go with his game-high 19 points. Harmon added 11 points and six assists. Brewe made both of his field goal attempts, including a three-pointer, and finished with eight points. Childress had eight points and three assists and Sam Beeler chipped-in with seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. 

Hawkins led the Aggies with 16 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line. Bozner had seven and a team-high five rebounds. 

UCSB will play its final home game on Thursday, Mar. 6 when it hosts Hawai'i in a game that will tip-off at 6:00 p.m. to an accommodate ESPNU broadcast. Prior to the game, Gaucho seniors Kyle Boswell and Shawn Moore will be saluted as they play the final home game of their career. 

Tickets for the UCSB-UH game are available from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or on-line by clicking here.