Facing defending Big West Champion Long Beach State, the UCSB men’s basketball team fell 77-70 on Saturday at the Thunderdome after a comeback attempt fell short.
The Gauchos fell behind by 10 at halftime only to bounce back and eventually tie the game, but could never take a lead. UCSB falls to 5-9 overall on the season with a 1-2 mark in Big West play thus far.
“[Long Beach is] a team in March that’s going to be in the hunt, there’s no doubt,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “If we’re a team in March that’s going to be in the hunt, we have a lot of improving to do. We’re very cognizant of that point and there are a lot of correctable, small things that can make a big difference with this ball club.”
Sophomore center Alan Williams led UCSB with 16 points and eight rebounds while freshman guard Michael Bryson registered a career-high 15 points on 3-7 shooting from behind the arc.
Despite sticking with Long Beach for the duration of the game, the Gauchos looked outmatched in certain aspects of the game, allowing 52 points inside the paint to a 49ers team that often found easy open looks under the basket. Long Beach improved to 6-8 overall (2-1 Big West) with the victory.
“We guarded the perimeter pretty well, and then they go to the high post and there was miscommunication,” junior guard Kyle Boswell said. “We’ve got to work on that because that’s unacceptable.”
Long Beach was led by sophomore guard Michael Caffey, who hit a buzzer beating three-pointer to give the 49ers a 41-31 halftime lead. Caffey led all players with 19 points and nine rebounds while also recording a team-high five assists.
Boswell helped the Gauchos by adding 14 points and a game-high three steals off the bench while shooting 3-6 on three-pointers. UCSB shot 13-23 from the free throw and 9-21 on threes.
“We couldn’t get over the hump; we couldn’t get them behind us,” Coach Williams said. “That’s the next step for us, obviously, is to be able to put them behind us once we crawl back into the game and take advantage of that.”
As the third-youngest team in the nation, UCSB received promising performances from many players, battling two close losses against Fullerton and Long Beach. The Gauchos have been unable to capitalize on some of the strong performances they have received, such as sophomore guard T.J. Taylor’s eight point, nine assist game on Saturday.
“We’re competing a lot better. When they made a run we kind of responded and that’s what you look for in a tough team,” Boswell said. “It’s a sign that we are getting better. We’re losing some hard games, and it’s tough when you know that we’re good enough to beat theses teams, but we’re going to keep improving and we’re going to get there.”
UCSB next travels to face University of the Pacific on Thursday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of January 7th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.