The UCSB men’s basketball team used a dominant second half to overpower the visiting Westmont Warriors 82-61 on Friday night.
“The energy level was down in the first half,” sophomore guard Kyle Boswell said. “I feel like it was a good test for our team to see how we respond to diversity. We came through and showed a lot of energy and composure.”
Friday’s victory improved UCSB to 3-0 on the season, but proved to be more difficult than the final score would indicate. The Gauchos were leading 33-31 at halftime, but the Warriors (2-2) used an 8-0 run to open up the second half and take a six-point lead.
“I love the fact that we had to respond in the second half,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I liked that we actually came together and played the last 15 minutes of the game in a much better fashion.”
Trailing by six early in the second half, the Gauchos received a much-needed boost from Boswell and senior guard Orlando Johnson to overcome an energetic Westmont squad.
Boswell scored every one of his career-high 15 points in the second half to aid UCSB in their comeback effort. With Westmont up 44-43 in the second half, Boswell and freshman guard T.J. Taylor scored a combined 12 points for the Gauchos to bring the score to 56-45.
Taylor finished the night with eight points — six coming in that crucial second half run.
“Our bench was really good,” Williams said. “The bench has been very, very productive so far this year. We have total confidence in playing them.”
Meanwhile, Johnson struggled to find his shot in the first half but proved dominant in the last 15 minutes, pounding the paint for most of his baskets and ending the night with 20 points, 12 rebounds (10 offensive) and four steals.
“He needs to do more, not just settle for perimeter fade away as part of his game,” Williams said. “What makes Orlando and [Nunnally] special and really tough to play against is they’re versatile enough to hurt you from inside and out.”
Westmont hung with the Gauchos for a large portion in the game thanks to junior guard Jordan Sachs’ game-high 25-point performance to go along with a team-high seven rebounds. However, Sachs’ play couldn’t propel the Warriors past UCSB.
“We put bodies on them, we worked hard on defense and we were just knocking down shots taking care of the ball as best as we could,” Sachs said. “I think Orlando grabbed every [offensive] board in the last eight minutes. Anytime we give up stuff like that, we’re not going to beat a team.”
Senior guard James Nunnally scored 16 points while grabbing eight rebounds for UCSB.
Senior forward Jaimé Serna and senior center Greg Somogyi also aided in rebounding, with Serna notching 10 points and seven boards and Somogyi scoring six, along with eight rebounds.
In spite of their loss, Westmont’s strong performance in the first half came as no surprise to the Gauchos.
“We knew they were the little team in town but we knew what they had,” Taylor said. “We knew they were going to come out and do everything they could to win. We needed that type of comeback victory to show the character of our team.”
UCSB’s victory proved to be an important test for the team — something Williams wanted to see from his players.
“I just let our guys play, sat down and said, ‘You figure it out,’” Williams said. “They figured it out and got more cohesive. I thought we responded well.”
UCSB returns to action on Tuesday when they host Portland at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.