There were a number of prominent storylines this weekend for the UCSB men’s basketball team, ranging from a pair of decisive victories to junior center Alan Williams’ usual dominance down low. But perhaps the most compelling was the return of sophomore guard John Green playing in his first ever regular season game as a Gaucho despite this being his third year in the program.
Green, who missed the past two seasons and the beginning of this year with broken foot bones, entered the game Saturday against UC Davis to a standing ovation from the crowd, logging his first meaningful minutes in a Gaucho uniform.
“Emotionally, I get choked up. You’re talking about a kid that has waited three years to play in a regular season game and had four broken bones, and a kid that wants it as bad as anybody we have in the program,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “No one, and I’ve been here 16 years, no one has endured what he’s endured.”
Immediately after entering, Green grabbed a rebound and put it right back up for a basket en route to a two-point, three-rebound performance over seven minutes.
The other headline Saturday in the Gauchos’ 82-67 victory over Davis was Big Al’s 27-point, 20-rebound performance, marking the first 20-20 game in UCSB history since 1990. Williams was a big reason Santa Barbara moved into first place with a 14-6 overall record and 5-2 mark in the Big West. Davis now stands at 7-15 overall and 2-5 in the conference.
“I love the fact that he got 20 and 20. It says something about a guy if he can go get 20 and 20 in a game,” Coach Williams said. “That doesn’t happen very often. He’s already getting a lot of national attention but you get 20 and 20, that’s a feat.”
Williams finished the first half with 10 points and 12 rebounds and followed that up with a 17-point, eight rebound performance in the second half. Big Al also finished the game with four assists and two blocked shots.
“We go to him every game to see who can stop him because I don’t think anyone in division I basketball can stop him,” freshman point guard Eric Childress said.
Senior guard Kyle Boswell added 15 points on 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc, becoming only the third Gaucho to make 200 career three-pointers in the process.
Sophomore guard Michael Bryson added 11 points for UCSB, while Childress added eight points and three assists. This game was never in question as the Gauchos outrebounded Davis by a margin of 14 and outshot the Aggies in both field goal and three-point percentage.
“We’re confident that we can run this conference and really be the number one team to win that Big West Championship,” Green said. “Once we have the opportunity to meet these two teams that we lost to [we’re confident] that we’re going to handle business.”
Thursday’s contest against UC Irvine began the weekend on a high note for the Gauchos, as they stomped the Anteaters in an 80-60 victory. Big Al led UCSB with 26 points and 10 rebounds despite having to go against Irvine freshman center Mamadou Ndiaye who is all of 7’6” and 290 pounds.
“We really came out very intense, excited to play and we definitely showed some stuff tonight,” Big Al said. “We showed our heart, we showed our aggressiveness and we showed our competitive edge out there. When we have that competitive edge and we play as hard as we did tonight we’re a tough team to beat.”
Sophomore forward Taran Brown finished the game with 16 points and shot a perfect 5-5 from the three. Boswell scored 10 points off the bench, sophomore forward Mitch Brewe added eight points and six rebounds and junior point guard Zalmico Harmon contributed seven points and six assists.
Following a Saturday victory at Cal Poly, Irvine now stands tied with UCSB for first with a 5-2 Big West record (14-9 overall).
“We have guys that have really accepted their roles on this team and I think that we’re finally starting to see how good we can possibly be,” Big Al said. “Of course we have a lot of work to do, but when we all accept our roles and play our roles we’re a tough team.”
UCSB next plays Thursday at Hawai’i.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of February 3, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.