UCSB Gains Momentum at the Right Time, Defeats Fullerton 66-50
With a chance to move up in the Big West standings, the UCSB men’s basketball team played with a clear sense of urgency and energy from the tipoff, defeating Cal State Fullerton 66-50 at the Thunderdome last night.
UCSB improved to 10-19 on the season with a 6-11 record in the Big West with the victory and now is tied with Fullerton (14-16 overall, 6-11 conference) for seventh in the conference standings.
“I think everybody can see [our energy],” sophomore center Alan Williams said. “We’re coming together right now, we’re playing some very competitive basketball and it’s showing out there with our performance.”
Big Al dominated down low, leading the Gauchos with 20 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks for his 14th double-double of the season.
A pair of freshmen in guard Michael Bryson and forward Taran Brown provided solid performances for UCSB, each displaying raw athleticism in the form of numerous electrifying dunks last night. Bryson finished with 14 points and five rebounds while Brown tallied 11 points and eight boards.
“I think it’s encouraging that [Taran] got some boards,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I think it’s encouraging that he got to the rim and got two dunks. It’s a step up for him.”
The Titans were unable to slow down UCSB’s inside game as they were outscored 40-14 in the paint. Fullerton sported a four or five guard lineup for the entirety of the game, with its lone forward being 6’7” junior James ‘Deuce’ Douglas.
Without senior guard D.J. Seeley and senior forward Sammy Yeager, Fullerton’s second and third leading scorers, the Titans looked nothing like the team that entered last night’s game as the eighth team in the nation in points scored per game with 78.4. The Titans’ 50 points is a season low, the previous season low in scoring being 55, which came in a loss to Pacific last weekend.
“It was different than the first time we played them when they were just running and gunning,” Big Al said. “I think they wanted to save their legs because they didn’t have all their guys; they’re pretty banged up like we are. We played solid, we held them to one shot most of the time and we were able to get out in the break for our advantage.”
Fullerton featured a usual offense for a high-scoring team, holding the ball at the top of the key, often waiting to attack until only 10 to 15 seconds remained on the shot clock. The Titans ranked either first or second in the conference in the three major shooting percentages entering the contest, but finished with an unusually low .200 three-point shooting percentage, .591 free throw percentage and .354 field goal percentage.
“When we were disciplined and moved the ball and got great shots … we were pretty effective,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I had no idea they would come in, hold the ball and go delay. They played fast, but only in the last 15 seconds of the shot clock.”
Fullerton featured an effective one-man full court press on UCSB’s point guard for the majority of the game, causing nine of the Gauchos’ 14 turnovers in the first half.
Up 23-22 at the half, UCSB came out aggressive to open the second half, going on a 14-4 run and never trailing in the second half. UCSB outperformed Fullerton on the boards as well, outrebounding the Titans 42-25.
Senior guard Nate Garth returned to action for UCSB after an eight game absence due to a left hamstring injury, but was limited in action, receiving only one minute of play. He will be the lone senior honored on Saturday for senior night.
“He just brings a presence that you want to play harder,” Bryson said. “He’s a very smart basketball player, so it makes you want to play harder for him and play smarter. If he’s just with us, we’re going to be a better team.”
Riverside previously defeated UCSB 54-45 at home, so the Gauchos will look for revenge against the Highlanders with a chance to officially lock up the seventh seed for next week’s Big West Conference Tournament in Anaheim.
“It’s a new season now,” Big Al said. “We’re going to be happy for about five more minutes and get ready for Riverside on Saturday.”
Tipoff for Saturday’s contest against Riverside is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.