Rarely do rivalry games live up to their billing, let alone surpass them.
Saturday’s matchup at the Thunderdome between the UCSB men’s basketball team and Cal Poly did exactly just that, as fans were treated to a double overtime thriller with the Gauchos edging out a narrow 83-81 victory over their conference rival.
In a televised game, UCSB was able to overcome the loss of its leader, sophomore center Alan Williams, who was sidelined the entire second half with an injury, and erase its halftime deficit thanks in large part to stellar contributions off the bench and tough defense in overtime.
“You put this type of effort out and you get a win, it’s a positive thing for your group and hopefully it spring-boards us a little bit in terms of our toughness and how hard we play,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I honestly think we grew up a little bit tonight.”
Santa Barbara is now 7-10 overall and 3-3 in the Big West as Cal Poly falls to 7-9 overall and 3-3 in conference.
Shooting only 39 percent from the field in the first half, Santa Barbara went into halftime down 32-27, but an apparent hamstring injury to Williams — the team’s leading scorer and rebounder — late in the first half put the outcome of the game in question for UCSB.
With no inside presence left, Coach Williams opted for a smaller lineup and implemented shooters at each position to offset the hole left by Alan Williams. The move worked out for the Gauchos as they still out-rebounded the Mustangs 44-41, and freshman guard Michael Bryson limited Cal Poly’s top scorer, junior forward Chris Eversley, to 24 percent shooting from the field.
“We’re in this game tonight because of three freshmen: Michael Bryson [who was] defensively phenomenal on Eversley and then Sam [Beeler] and Mitch [Brewe] and their filling of Al’s shoes,” Williams said. “We had to have those three freshmen take about 40 minutes. If you would’ve told me we beat Cal Poly without Al, I would’ve said that’s highly unlikely.”
After allowing Cal Poly a three-point basket with a minute left, freshman forward Taran Brown knocked down a three of his own to tie the game at 66 and send the game into overtime. With the game still tied in the first overtime, Santa Barbara’s stingy defense forced a turnover in the final possession to extend the game into another overtime period.
Allowing only five points in the first overtime, the Gauchos found themselves down by one point with 21 seconds left in the second overtime, which set the stage for junior guard Kyle Boswell. With an open lane available, Boswell took the ball to the hole for the game-winning layup, taking a hard foul in the process.
“They didn’t obviously want me to get the three up and that kind of left an open lane,” Boswell said. “I kind of threw it up and I knew I got fouled. I didn’t think there was a chance of it going in but sometimes it’ll surprise you.”
Boswell played 41 minutes off the bench and led all Gauchos in scoring with a career-high 23 on the night.
“He’s just a big-time player. When you need some buckets, you give it to him,” Bryson said.
UCSB now prepares for Thursday night’s game against Cal State Northridge.