A 37-13 second-half point difference fueled the UCSB men’s basketball team’s 68-49 win Saturday against Cal State Fullerton at the Thunderdome. Despite playing without two of their best scorers, the Gauchos leaned on junior guard Michael Bryson’s game-high 23 points to earn their second win of the week.
The victory gets UCSB back on track after coming off possibly its worst week of basketball in the season with losses to Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State. However, with this week’s sweep over UC Riverside and Fullerton, the Gauchos improve to 10-9 overall and 3-2 in Big West. Fullerton continues winless in conference at 0-5 and 8-12 overall.
It was Bryson who carried the load offensively for the Gauchos. Still without the team’s leading scorer in senior center Alan Williams (shoulder injury), Bryson looked for his shot right from the start, knocking down half of his 16 shot attempts, while making all of his four free throws to make him the program’s leader in most consecutive free throws made with 34.
“I think I’ve gotten to a pretty good rhythm right now,” Bryson said. “I know when to take my shots at this point. Now I just got to make sure I knock down a little bit more.”
Sophomore guard Eric Childress delivered a solid game, totaling a career-high 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in the absence of freshman guard Gabe Vincent, who was out due to illness.
“I’m really pleased with how they responded to getting their opportunity,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “Hopefully it gives them confidence and grow from here … You’re seeing the byproduct of a kid like Eric stepping up when he’s had to the last two games.”
Junior guard John Green made the first seven points for Santa Barbara and finished with 15. His work on the glass really gave the team the advantage; Green’s 10 rebounds gave him his first career double-double and came at the heels of him grabbing only 11 combined boards his previous three games.
“You have to make up for the ways Alan contributes to the team,” Green said. “My whole focus was to rebound more because the last couple of games in the conference I wasn’t rebounding a lot, so coaches really have been telling me to focus on rebounding and playing my game, which is really going to take me to the next level.”
Fullerton had its first halftime lead of the conference season, leading 36-31. UCSB began to take control of the second half after a 19-0 run that gave the Gauchos a decisive 52-40 lead with 10 minutes left.
For CSUF, the league’s fifth leading scorer coming into the game, senior guard Alex Harris, was kept in check for only four points. After shooting 46 percent in the first half, the Titans managed to only nail 13 percent of their shots in the second.
“They came out 6-13 [shooting from three-point range]. In the second half they’re going to start to cool down, they’re going to start to fatigue,” Green said. “Just as long as we contest shots and play good defense, they’re not going to fall, which was what happened in the second half.”
Santa Barbara goes on the road now for its first two-game conference road trip. The team plays UC Davis Thursday and UC Irvine Saturday.