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Gauchos Struggle Offensively, Battle to 61-55 Win Over Western Illinois

Alan Williams (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Alan Williams (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

LOGAN, Utah – Alan Williams had 22 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots to help UC Santa Barbara overcome a poor offensive performance en route to a 61-55 win over Western Illinois in the final game of the Basketball Travelers Classic in Logan, Utah on Saturday.

The Gauchos (7-4) struggled through their poorest shooting game of the season as they made just 35.8% of their shots overall and a mere 3-for-17 from three-point range. But the combination of Williams, a 20-for-28 free throw performance and some clutch shots from Kyle Boswell and Eric Childress was enough.

"You're going have some games like that," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "We didn't play particularly poor, but we just couldn't find the range. Al (Williams) kept us in this thing. He was really efficient and enough other guys came through down the stretch. It's a win and we'll take it."

With the exception of Williams who had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, the Gauchos found the going very tough. In the first 20 minutes, UCSB made just 7-of-29 field goal attempts, including 0-for-6 from three-point range, but still trailed just 29-24 at the break.

The Gauchos were better in the second half and when Michael Bryson, who didn't play in Friday's loss to Utah State, made a pair of free throws with 16:21 left, the game was tied at 31. Two minutes later, Williams made a lay-up to complete a 12-2 run and give UCSB a 36-31 lead.

But the Leathernecks weren't finished as they fought back to take a two-point lead on a lay-up by Tate Stensgaard with just under nine minutes to play.

The Gauchos then went on a 6-0 run to take a four-point lead with 6:41 left. The last four points came on back-to-back beautiful driving lay-ups by Childress who finished with eight points.

Santa Barbara never trailed again and every time Western Illinois pulled within two, they responded. The responses included three-pointers by Boswell and Bryson, and a variety of inside buckets by Williams.

Bryson finished with 11 points to help Williams. The Gauchos had just nine turnovers in the game while forcing the Leathernecks into 16. 

Western Illinois was led by Jabari Sandifer who had 13 points.

UCSB will take some time off for Christmas before returning to action on Monday, Dec. 30 at Seattle University. Tip-off at Key Arena is slated for 7:00 p.m. and the game can be heard live on AM 1290 KZSB and The pregame show will begin at 6:30.