IRVINE, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara ended the game on a 20-4 run to blow open a tie game en route to a 76-60 win over first-place UC Irvine on Saturday night.
With the win, the Gauchos (9-11 overall, 3-4 in Big West) ended the Anteaters' (17-6, 6-1) seven-game winning streak.
"I am as proud of this team as I have been of any team in a long time," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "We had a very tough loss on Thursday (at Long Beach State) and to come in here when they have a sellout and a hostile environment is really huge."
UCI opened the second half on a 15-5 run to turn a 31-25 halftime deficit into a 40-36 lead with 15:35 to play in the game, but UCSB battled back and it was a see-saw game until the Gauchos' 20-4 game-ending run.
Santa Barbara broke a 56-56 tie when Gabe Vincent made a long three-point basket from the left corner at the 5:17 mark. After the teams exchanged misses, Sam Beeler had a tip-in with 3:48 left, extending the lead to 61-56.
After Mamadou Ndiaye missed the front end of a one-and-one, Beeler grabbed the rebound and was intentionally fouled. He made both free throws and the score was 63-56. The Anteaters Luke Nelson scored on a put-back to draw his team back within 63-58, but Vincent answered with deep three from the right corner to make it 66-58.
Aaron Wright made one out of two free throws to cut the gap to 66-59, but on the other end Eric Childress rebounded a missed three by Vincent and found Bryson for a slam dunk with 1:12 to play, giving UCSB a 68-59 lead.
"Eric has come so far in so many ways," said Bryson. "He is seeing the game so well now and makes everybody better."
On the other end, Dominique Dunning made one of two free throws but the Anteaters rebounded the miss and got the ball to Luke Nelson in the corner. Nelson's three was blocked by Childress, but he got the ball back and missed another three that was rebounded by Vincent who broke free for a breakaway, but his lay-up was blocked from behind by Nelson. However, Childress was there again for the rebound and after he was fouled by Jaron Martin, he made a pair of free throws to push the lead to 70-60 with 41 seconds left.
Martin missed a three on UCI's next possession and Bryson was fouled by Alex Young after grabbing the rebound. Young was then whistled for a technical foul after he heaved the ball into the air. The Anteater bench was also called for a technical and Bryson calmly made six consecutive free throws to give UCSB its final margin, 76-60.
"We got contributions from everyone," Bryson said. "Everybody got something in the box score and we needed it. This was my first win here and it feels great."
Bryson finished with a game-high 18 points and he became the 11th player in school history to surpass 1,400 points in the process. He needs four to pass Branduinn Fullove and move into 10th on the all-time list.
After a slow start, Vincent finished with 14 points, five assists and four rebounds. Childress had 12 points, five assists and a pair of steals. In addition, the Gauchos got 23 points from its bench, the most in league play. John Green had seven points, eight rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Mitch Brewe had six points, two steals and was instrumental in a defense that forced 15 Anteater turnovers. Also, T.J. Taylor, scoreless in his previous five games, made both of his three-point attempts and had eight points.
"T.J. showed me a lot tonight," Williams said. "All three of the shots he made were big, but the three-pointers were really big. He wanted the ball tonight and really stepped-up."
UCSB limited UCI to 42.3% from the field and, after committing a season-high 24 turnovers Thursday, had just eight turnovers on Saturday.
UCSB will play its next two games at home as it will host Hawaii on Thursday, Feb. 4 and Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Feb. 6. Both game will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. at the Thunderdome.