NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – Alan Williams scored a career-high 32 points, had 16 rebounds, and combined with Kyle Boswell and Keegan Hornbuckle for 50 points second half points, as UC Santa Barbara won a key Big West Conference road game at Cal State Northridge on Saturday night, 83-74.
The win puts the Gauchos (9-19 overall, 5-11 in the Big West) in the driver's seat for one of the final conference tournament berths. The Matadors (13-17 overall, 4-13 in the Big West) are now a game and a half back of UCSB with one weekend left in the league season. Santa Barbara will host Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside on Mar. 7 and Mar. 9 respectively.
"That was a great second half effort by the whole team, but it was especially good for Big Al, Bos and Keegan," said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. "Al has been pressing a little lately, but tonight he was a load in the second half. In their own way, all three of those guys were."
Williams, who had struggled with his shooting in recent games, made 11-of-20 shots from the field and 10-of-13 from the free throw line. He scored 24 of his points in the second half. After going scoreless in the first half, one game after scoring a career-high 27 at Hawaii, Boswell found his range in the second half and finished with 18. Hornbuckle scored eight of his season-high 10 in the second half.
UCSB used a 20-8 run to open the second half and take at 49-39 lead with 12:28 left in the game. Alan Williams had 13 of the 20 points while Boswell added seven during that stretch.
The Matadors went on a 6-0 run to cut into the Gauchos' lead and make the score 49-45. Josh Greene, who finished with a team-high 25 points, made a three-pointer during the run. He had 21 points in the second half.
It was still a four-point game at 51-47 when Boswell drained a long three-pointer from above the key, Williams made a free throw and a bank shot, and Hornbuckle hit a 15-footer to push the score to 59-47 with 6:43 left in the game.
"I thought we were really resilient tonight," Coach Williams said. "They (the Matadors) don't quit. Bobby (Braswell) keeps them playing, no matter what, so I knew we would have to keep playing with an edge."
Northridge did continue to push and a lay-up by Trevone Williams made it a 61-56 game with 5:01 left. An acrobatic tip-in by Hornbuckle made it 63-56 and then a key sequence helped secure the game for the Gauchos.
After Trevone Williams missed a three on the Matadors' offensive end, UCSB pushed the ball and T.J. Taylor fed a nice pass to Alan Williams in the post. The Gauchos' Williams used a pump-fake to get Northridge's Williams in the air and made a hanging jump shot. Trevone Williams came down on Alan Williams, sending him to the free throw line for a possible three-point play.
Trevone Williams was whistled for a technical foul when he complained about the call. Taylor made one of the two technical free throws for Santa Barbara and Alan Williams made his free throw to extend the lead back to 11, 67-56.
The Gauchos still led 77-65 when the Matadors used one more rally to creep within 77-71 with 40 seconds left in the game. A free throw by Michael Bryson stopped the 6-0 run, but was answered with a three-pointer from Greene, narrowing the gap to 78-74 with 35 ticks left on the clock..
Alan Williams and Boswell, however, didn't let the game get any closer as the duo combined to make 5-of-6 free throws in the final half minute to close the game out, 83-79.
With everyone but Williams struggling in the first half, freshman Michael Bryson helped keep UCSB in the game by scoring 13 of his 14 points. The Gauchos trailed 30-28 at the break.
Williams, who did not play when Northridge won the first game between the teams in Santa Barbara on Jan. 24, tied his career-high with three assists on Saturday night. He also had three blocked shots and a steal. Bryson also had five rebounds and four assists.
The 83 points were the most the Gauchos have scored since they Dec. 15 and their 50.8 shooting from the field was a season-high. They also made 18-of-30 from the field in the decisive second half, 60.0%.
The Gauchos return home for the final weekend of the season hosting Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, Mar. 7 and UC Riverside on Saturday, Mar. 9. A win over Fullerton would guarantee UCSB a berth in the Big West Tournament and would also create a tie for seventh-place between the two schools
Both games will tip at 7:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking here.