With their backs against the wall, the UCSB men’s basketball team came out Saturday night with a clear sense of urgency. Opening up the game with a 12-0 run, the Gauchos never trailed Saturday on the way to a 66-53 victory over Pacific to snap a season-high five-game losing streak.
Santa Barbara improved to 8-15 overall on the season with a 4-8 mark in the Big West with the victory. Pacific, meanwhile, fell to 13-10 this year with a 7-4 record in conference play.
“Part of growing up is handling diversity,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I really liked how we came out and responded. Yeah, it helps a lot with the energy when you hit your first couple of threes. Your energy is better. I’m sure Pacific is not real happy with their energy right now.”
Sophomore guard T.J. Taylor hit his first two three-pointers and sophomore center Alan Williams added six quick points to give UCSB a 12-0 lead to start the game. That run was put in danger, however, when Williams sprained his right ankle midway through the first half.
“We stick in there with each other,” Taylor said. “We were going to get that win no matter what tonight. We had to stick together and stay strong and compete, and we did.”
UCSB responded without its best player, turning a four-point advantage at the point of Big Al’s departure into a 37-29 halftime lead.
Big Al recorded 10 points and seven rebounds in a mere eight minutes on the night, providing UCSB with solid play in the first half. Williams missed three games due to a hamstring injury and was playing in only his third game back on Saturday before suffering another injury.
“I thought we started this game with pretty good fight,” Coach Williams said. “I’m disappointed to see [Big Al] go out. I think he was going to have a big game, he looked very active.”
Despite playing without Big Al, Santa Barbara continued to show its resilient energy in the second half. The Gauchos are down to eight players now without Williams and an assortment of other injured Gauchos.
A pair of freshmen in forward Taran Brown and guard Michael Bryson led the Gauchos in scoring with 13 points apiece. Brown pulled down a team-high eight rebounds, while Bryson grabbed six boards on the night.
“We played more as a team tonight,” Brown said. “We got some good vibes going and some positive energy and that’s really what we need right now. We just started off hot right away. It was a good feeling. We just kept pushing the whole night.”
The story of the night for the Gauchos was their hot shooting, as they shot 50 percent on both field goals and three-pointers. Junior guard Kyle Boswell scored nine points on the night while finishing 3-3 from beyond the arc.
“We hit some shots, we played with a great sense of urgency, we had some good energy; I thought they pulled for each other pretty hard tonight,” Coach Williams said. “That’s something as a young group, sometimes you just start playing instead of playing with a purpose. I thought we had a little better purpose [tonight].”
Taylor provided the Gauchos with solid play at the point on the night, registering a career-high tying 11 points along with eight assists and two steals.
Junior forward Ross Rivera led Pacific with 15 points on the night and was one of only two Tigers to register double-digit scoring along with senior guard Lorenzo McCloud who had 10 points.
“It’s big, we needed a win. It’s been awhile obviously since we got a win,” Brown said. “We needed to get back on track so it was a good game for us and we’ve just got to keep pushing it and go get Cal Poly now.”
UCSB next travels to face rival Cal Poly on Saturday.