Gauchos Use Strong Finish to Battle Past Long Beach State, 70-55

Gabe Vincent (Photo by Shane Roper)
Gabe Vincent (Photo by Shane Roper)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Michael Bryson had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Gabe Vincent added 13 points, all in the final 10:40, as UC Santa Barbara cruised to a 70-55 win over visiting Long Beach State on Thursday night.

The Gauchos (12-11 overall, 5-4 in the Big West) led 26-23 at halftime and never trailed in the second half. The 49ers' (13-13, 7-3) last lead was at 20-19 on a three-pointer by Tyler Lamb with 4:15 to play in the first half. 

The win was UCSB's second in a row and it improved to 4-2 in the absence of Alan Williams, the 2014 Big West Player of the Year and the team's leading scorer and rebounder, who is out with an injured right shoulder. 

"Tonight we showed outstanding toughness," said head coach Bob Williams. "This was a very physical game, like they all are with Long Beach, and our guys really held their own." 

The Gauchos took their first double-digit lead on Vincent's first basket of the game, a three-pointer with 10:40 remaining. The freshman's second three came with 6:34 left and made the score 54-42. 

But the next two minutes belonged to Long Beach. McKay LaSalle and Mike Caffey made back-to-back two point shots to cut the gap to 54-46 with 5:26 on the clock. A pair of free throws by David Samuels pulled the 49ers within 54-48 with 4:44 left, and then after a turnover, Caffey drilled a long three-pointer from the top of the key with 4:37 remaining to complete a quick 9-0 rally and pull his team within 54-51.

UCSB's responded with a decisive 10-0 surge to reclaim a 64-51 lead with 1:53 to go in the game. Vincent and Zalmico Harmon each scored five of the 10 points to put the contest out of reach. 

"We had to respond with that type of run," Vincent said. "When you're playing against a team as talented as that and a player as good as Caffey, you've got to make plays down the stretch and we did." 

The Gauchos stretched the lead to 70-53 as they were perfect from the free throw line down the stretch and finished 13-for-13 in the second half. 

John Green added 10 points, while Mitch Brewe had nine points and seven rebounds. Eric Childress had eight points, five assists and no turnovers. 

"Since the first time we played Long Beach this season we have stressed that we need to be tougher," Williams said. "Tonight we were. I thought Mitch played as tough as he ever has and that was huge for us." 

The 49ers were led by LaSalle who made his first seven shots, including four three-pointers, to finish with 18 points. Caffey added 11, but was just 5-for-15 from the field. 

As a team, UCSB shot just 29.2% in the first half but bounced back by making 13-for-23 in the second half, 56.5%.

The Gauchos will begin a three-game road trip when they travel to Cal State Northridge on Saturday for a 7:00 p.m. game against the Matadors.