The UCSB men’s basketball team survived a scare at UC Davis Saturday night.
Ahead by 19 points with 3:41 to go in the second half, the Gauchos gave up a 19-4 run to the Aggies (9-13 overall, 5-5 Big West) but scraped by with an 81-77 victory, ending their three-game Big West road trip with two wins and improving to 8-3 in the conference.
UCSB remains half a game behind first-place Pacific (15-7 overall, 8-2 Big West) in the conference standings after the Tigers beat Cal Poly 67-61 on Saturday night. Davis dropped to fourth place in the conference after the loss.
“Man, it’s a big thing to go 2-0 [to end the road trip],” sophomore point guard Will Brew said to KIST radio. “Now everybody knows that we know how to win on the road. [We’re] right back in the hunt, we [showed] everybody we are still determined to win this conference.”
Brew finished the game with 11 points after making five of his seven shot attempts, including a rare dunk midway through the second half that increased the Gauchos’ lead to 16. Sophomore forward James Nunnally led all scorers with 24 points and hit all four of his three-point attempts. Four Gauchos scored double figures as the team cumulatively shot 58 percent from the field — 65 percent from behind the arc. Off the bench, junior point guard Justin Joyner led all players with eight assists.
“This [might have been] the best game of the year for our point guards,” Gaucho Head Coach Bob Williams said to KIST. “[Brew] was tremendous in the second half. To see Brew attack the rim like that and get to the basket, it spread [open] the game for us.”
Williams claimed to be proud of the Gauchos’ defensive effort for the first 37 minutes of the game. He took the blame for the last three minutes of play, in which UCSB’s defense broke down, and the Aggies nearly pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in NCAA basketball history.
“We just didn’t take care of it down the stretch,” Williams continued. “For a long time we defended really well tonight.”
The Gauchos return to the Thunderdome in their next game on Feb. 13 against Long Beach State, who beat the Gauchos by 20 points at the Walter Pryamid in the teams’ last meeting on Jan. 14. The 49ers were predicted to win the conference title in the preseason polls but currently hold a 4-5 record in the Big West.