BURLINGTON, Vt. – Michael Bryson scored 19 points to lead UC Santa Barbara, but Vermont scored the first four points and led wire-to-wire en route to a 75-68 win on Wednesday night in Burlington, Vt.
The Gauchos (2-6) kept the game close almost the whole way, but a 26-11 advantage at the free throw line helped the Catamounts (5-6) hand UCSB its fourth straight loss.
"We are just not playing well on either end of the floor right now," said head coach Bob Williams. "We have to figure it out fast and that may mean changing some things."
Vermont was led by Kurt Steidl who had 19 points, making all six of his free throws, while post player Darren Payen made 6-of-7 field goal attempts inside the paint and finished with 12 points.
"Our defense in the post is just no good right now," Williams said. "They flat-out got their way inside and that really loosened things up for them on the outside."
UCSB whittled a nine-point lead to four, 45-41, when Bryson was fouled going to the basket and made both free throws with 14:37 left. The Catamounts responded with a 7-0 run, the final two coming on free throws by Nate Rohrer, to reclaim a 52-41 lead with 13:05 remaining.
The lead stayed between seven and 14 until freshmen Grant Troutt and Jarriesse Blackmon hit back-to-back three-pointers. The second, by Blackmon, made it 72-66 with 57 seconds to play. The baskets by Troutt and Blackmon were the first career points for each.
Gabe Vincent joined Bryson in double-figures for the Gauchos with 15 points. Alex Hart came off the bench to set a new career-high with nine points, also tying a career-high with five rebounds. John Green paced UCSB with six rebounds.
The Catamounts made 26-of-36 free throw attempts while Santa Barbara was just 11-of-19. The home team missed its first seven three-point attempts but then made seven of its next 15 and ultimately finished 7-of-25. The Gauchos were 7-of-16 from beyond the three-point arc.
UCSB won the battle of the boards, 36-31, and actually shot a solid 48.1% in the second half to finish at 43.9% for the game. The Catamounts made 44.7% of their shots overall.
The Gauchos will remain away from home and play a pair of games at the South Point Classic in Las Vegas. They will take-on Akron on Monday, Dec. 21 at noon at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa. They will play Iona on Tuesday, Dec. 22, also at noon.