With leading scorer and rebounder Alan Williams limited to 16 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble, sophomore guard Michael Bryson picked up the slack, scoring 19 points in the Gauchos’ 67-54 victory over UC Davis on Saturday.
In an ESPN-televised game, the UCSB men’s basketball team picked up an important road victory that kept the squad in second place in the conference standings and completed a season sweep of the Aggies.
Santa Barbara improved to 19-8 overall with a 10-4 record in the Big West, while Davis (9-20 overall, 4-10 Big West) now sits in a tie for last place in the conference standings. The Gauchos are one game behind UC Irvine in the Big West, falling to the Anteaters Thursday night in a matchup that at the time featured two teams tied for first in the conference.
UCSB never trailed in Saturday’s contest, beginning with a quick 9-0 lead to start the game. The Aggies rallied, trailing by as few as three points before UCSB regained command, taking a 32-23 lead at halftime.
Big Al quickly picked up two fouls within the first two minutes of the second half, giving the junior center four in the game and forcing the Gauchos to turn elsewhere for offensive production.
Following Big Al’s fourth foul, Bryson scored seven straight points for the Gauchos, giving the team an 18-point lead with 16:31 remaining in the game, its largest lead of the game. Davis would creep to as close as an eight-point deficit, but the Gauchos’ early second-half advantage proved to be insurmountable.
Despite playing only 16 minutes, Big Al still managed to post a respectable eight-point, 10-rebound performance and now ranks second in the nation in rebounds per game. A pair of sophomore forwards in Mitch Brewe and Sam Beeler were called upon to play more minutes with Big Al in foul trouble. Each played 17 minutes, with Brewe registering eight points and Beeler pulling down seven rebounds.
Both proved valuable down low for the Gauchos, as the team controlled the glass with a 43-20 advantage in rebounds on the game.
Junior point guard Zalmico Harmon continued his stellar play with 11 points, six assists, four rebounds and only one turnover. Harmon ranks second in the nation in his assist to turnover ratio this season.
Still, the star of the game was Bryson, with his 19 points and seven rebounds. He now ranks second on the team in scoring, right ahead of senior guard Kyle Boswell, who finished with six points on the night.
Junior guard Corey Hawkins was the only Aggie to register double-digit scoring with 16 points. As a team, Davis shot 38.6 percent from the field compared to a 44.2 percent clip for the Gauchos.
The Gauchos now sit in second place in the conference, one game behind Irvine and a game ahead of Long Beach State. With only two games remaining in the regular season, Santa Barbara needs Irvine to drop a game to force a tie for first place in the conference. Each team won on its own floor against each other this season.
UCSB next faces Hawaii on Thursday at the Thunderdome.
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of March 3, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.