There was no stopping the UCSB men’s basketball team Monday night. Led by a 22-point, 13-rebound performance from senior center Alan Williams, the Gauchos defeated Florida Gulf Coast University in a 63-50 victory at the Thunderdome.
“I think we came into this game extremely focused, extremely task-oriented, knowing what we needed to do,” Williams said. “I think we went out there and executed pretty well.”
The win places the Gauchos at an even 7-7 record to finish off their non-conference schedule. UCSB traveled more than 23,000 miles during non-conference, including a visit to Florida Gulf Coast in November that resulted in an overtime loss for UCSB. The narrative was very different in the rematch as UCSB led from start to finish.
There was no lapse in focus by the Gauchos in the second half after building a double-digit lead in the first. UCSB applied pressure on the Eagles by outscoring them 10-2 to start the second half, extending its lead to 40-21.
UCSB never let go of its double-digit lead, but the Eagles were still clinging on passing the six-minute mark, going on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 12. Despite staying in the game, the Gauchos did not allow FGCU’s main weapons from getting in a rhythm on offense.
FGCU’s leading scorer coming in, senior guard Bernard Thompson, shot just 35 percent in the game and senior guard Brent Comer was limited to only four points after scoring 28 in the first match.
“This time we slid our feet more and we knew [Comer] was primarily going to do a few things and we shot it down,” senior guard Zalmico Harmon said. “He’s a great point guard and we just feel we scouted him pretty well, and did a good job of staying in front of him.”
Ultimately, the backbreaker came just two minutes later as junior guard John Green nailed a bucket to increase UCSB’s lead to 16 with four minutes left and seal the win.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the game came from sophomore guard Eric Childress. Childress provided a spark off the bench, hustling on defense and driving to the paint for tough buckets, en route to a season-high six points.
“I thought he was really good. I thought he played really hard, really physical, scrappy, kind of had a chip on his shoulder and that’s exactly what we need out of him,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He helps change the game and it allows me — when he plays that physical and that aggressive — to play [Harmon] with him.”
Poor shooting from the Eagles coupled by an energetic start by UCSB helped the Gauchos get off to an 8-2 lead in the opening minutes. Despite FGCU shooting a dismal 29 percent from the field in the first half, Santa Barbara suffered its own shooting slump to go into the half with the score at 30-19.
Big Al’s performance in the first half foreshadowed what was to come in the second as the big man ended the first period with 10 rebounds to go along with eight points.
“Any time he comes to play, he brings a presence that we all feel obligated to match at a certain level,” Harmon said.
With the non-conference schedule now out of the way, the Gauchos now prepare for the start of Big West play. First game is at Cal Poly on Saturday.