Balanced Gauchos Hand UC Davis its First Big West Home Loss in Nearly Two Years, 72-66

Sam Beeler had 12 points, six rebounds and several key plays down the stretch as UCSB topped UC Davis on Thursday night, 72-66. (Photo by Gerry Fall)
Sam Beeler had 12 points, six rebounds and several key plays down the stretch as UCSB topped UC Davis on Thursday night, 72-66. (Photo by Gerry Fall)

DAVIS, Calif. – Michael Bryson scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds to lead five players in double-figures as UC Santa Barbara ended UC Davis's 12-game home Big West Conference winning streak with a 72-66 win on the road Thursday night.

The victory was the 299th of Bob Williams's UCSB career and he needs just one more to become the third coach in Big West Conference history to exceed 300 wins while coaching in the league. 

After jumping out to a 12-3 lead, he Gauchos (11-12 overall, 5-5 in Big West) fell behind 14-13 with 13:24 left in the first half, but Mitch Brewe made a baseline jumper from the left side to make the score 15-14 and the Aggies (10-13, 5-5) never reclaimed the lead. 

"This kind of felt as though we led from start-to-finish," Williams said. "But we needed some big plays down the stretch to hold on and we got them." 

For the second straight game, UCSB closed the game strongly. Davis pulled within 41-40 on a pair of Darius Graham free throws with 10:29 to play in the game. John Green scored four straight points, two from the free throw line and then two on a nifty lay-up after he split a pair of defenders on the left side." 

"I'm starting to feel better on the offensive end again," Green, who missed almost all of seven games after injuring a knee in late-December. "I felt pretty good tonight and it was a good win." 

After Lawrence White made 1-of-2 free throws with 8:06 remaining, Sam Beeler made his first of three big plays as he rebounded a Gabe Vincent miss and banked it back in to push the edge back to 47-41.

Siler Schneider pulled the Aggies back to a three-point deficit when he drained a three-point basket from straight out with 7:27 left, but Vincent responded with a short jumper in the middle of the key and it was 49-44 Gauchos at the 6:56 mark. 

Josh Fox made 1-of-2 free throws with 6:10 left, setting the stage for two more big plays by the visitors. 

With the shot clock running down, UCSB swung the ball from right-to-left. Bryson received a pass and could have taken a guarded three from the free throw line extended, but instead he found Eric Childress in the corner for an open three-pointer and the point guard nailed the shot, extending the lead to 52-45 with 5:38 on the clock. 

On the other end, Fox missed a jumper from the free throw line, Bryson rebounded and drove the ball up the court. About 10 feet over the midcourt line, he lofted a pass towards the basket to Beeler who grabbed the ball and slammed it home, giving the Gauchos a 54-45 lead. It was Beeler's second alley-oop slam of the game, but it wasn't his last key play. 

Aggie center Neal Monson scored on a lay-up with exactly four minutes to play. On the offensive end, Leading by seven, UCSB tried to run clock on the offensive end and it resulted in a rushed and awkward shot from just inside the left side of the three-point arc. The shot was an air ball, but Beeler was right there to tip it in, restoring the nine-point lead at 56-47 with 3:23 to play. 

"I knew we were going to have to rush a shot so I just kind of tracked the play and was ready when it went up," Beeler said. "I knew I didn't have time to come down so I just tried to tip it off the glass and that's what happened." 

Davis made one final push, scoring five straight points to pull within 56-52 at the 2:37 mark, but Green stepped up again, making a jump shot from just inside the three-point line at the top of the key, pushing the lead back to 58-52. Childress then rebounded a missed three by Graham on the other end, was intentionally fouled, made a pair of free throws and it was 60-52 with 1:55 remaining. 

The free throws by Childress started a game-ending stretch that saw UCSB make 12-for-12 from the line over the final two minutes. Vincent and Childress each had six of the free throws. 

"It felt good to have the advantage at the free throw line tonight," Williams said. "We've been beaten so badly at the line this year and it was great to turn that around." 

The Gauchos finished the game 23-of-26 from the free line for a season-best 88.5%. In fact, the team's backcourt of Bryson, Vincent and Childress combined to go 17 

In addition to Bryson's 16 points, UCSB received 13 from Vincent and 12 apiece from Green, Beeler and Childress. It was the first time this season the Gauchos had five players score in double-figures. They also tied their season-high with10 steals as a team, including a career-high four by Vincent. 

Santa Barbara also finished with a 34-29 rebound edge, including 19-12 in the second half. Davis was led by Graham who had 19 points and made 3-of-4 shots from three-point territory. As a team, the Aggies hit 11-of-22 three-point attempts against the Big West's best defensive team against the three.

Not only did the victory end Davis's 12-game home winning streak in conference games, it was the first it had suffered since it lost to UCSB on Mar. 1, 2014.

The Gauchos are off on Saturday and return to action on Thursday, Feb. 18 when they travel to UC Riverside for a game that will tip-off at 8:00 p.m. They play their next home game on Saturday, Feb. 20 when they see UC Davis for the second time in 10 days. The game against the Aggies will tip at 7:00 p.m. at the Thunderdome.