Despite receiving a pair of monster performances from sophomore center Alan Williams, the UCSB men’s basketball team split its two conference games this week. UCSB dropped an 80-62 game at Pacific on Thursday before earning a 66-59 victory over UC Davis on Saturday.
The weekend split brings the Gauchos’ record to 6-10 overall and 2-3 in the Big West. UCSB was powered both nights by Williams who averaged 25 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in the two games.
“We were excited how we responded, came back and got a win in what we considered a must-win game [Saturday],” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “It’s good to see us respond well with our backs against the wall and come out and find a way to get a win at Davis.”
In Saturday night’s victory, UCSB scored seven straight points to end the first half, taking a 33-23 lead into the locker room. Davis battled back, bringing the game as close as three points, but Santa Barbara proved clutch in the final moments.
Junior guard Kyle Boswell converted a rare four-point play to give the Gauchos a 59-51 lead with just over two minutes to play. After five straight points by the Aggies, senior guard Nate Garth responded, draining a three-pointer and advancing UCSB’s lead to 62-56. Santa Barbara was able to close out the game from there, clinching its first conference road victory of the season with a 66-59 win.
“That shot [Garth] hit was probably the biggest shot of the game in terms of holding them off when they’re making a run at us,” Coach Williams said. “It didn’t ice the game, but it put a lot of pressure on them to get back into it.”
Big Al fueled UCSB on Saturday, posting an impressive 28 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“He had two double-doubles on the road trip. It’s a phenomenal effort,” Coach Williams said. “He was very efficient from the floor offensively, kept a lot of balls alive, blocked shots; he pretty much did it all.”
Davis was nearly propelled to victory by the play of sophomore guard Corey Hawkins who led the team in multiple categories with 23 points and four assists on the night. Hawkins averages 18 points per game, just behind Williams 18.1 per game, and ranks fourth in the conference this season. With the loss, the Aggies fell to 5-10 overall (1-3 Big West).
Sophomore guard T.J. Taylor provided a spark for Santa Barbara, scoring 10 points and adding a team-high six assists. In Big West play, Taylor leads the conference in assists with 7.4 per game; nearly three more than any other player in conference play this season.
“T.J. bounced back really well from maybe his worst performance of the year at UOP to playing a very solid, heady, floor-game for us where he made good decisions,” Coach Williams said. “The fact that he bounced back, took care of the ball and only had one turnover was huge for us.”
Thursday’s performance at Pacific was much less inspiring for the Gauchos as UCSB trailed 38-25 entering the second half. Big Al was impressive with 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, but Santa Barbara was outrebounded by five and committed eight more turnovers than the Tigers.
Pacific was led by junior forward Tony Gill’s 17 points off the bench as 54 of the Tigers’ 80 points came from non-starters. The Tigers improved to 9-7 overall, and their 3-1 mark in the Big West place them in a tie for second in the conference standings.
“We went in the Pacific game down 13 at halftime, come out and score the first five and just never mount a comeback after that,” Coach Williams said. “We couldn’t make shots, couldn’t get stops, couldn’t get matched up. Just a bad outing.”
Boswell shot 4-8 from the field on the way to 15 points for UCSB. Taylor scored six points and added nine assists, but committed six of the Gauchos’ 13 turnovers in the process.
UCSB returns home to play rival Cal Poly on Saturday.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 14th, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.