SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Alan Williams had his 14th double-double of the season with 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead four players in double-figures as UC Santa Barbara moved closer to the No. 7 seed in next week's Big West Tournament with a 66-50 win over visiting Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night.
UCSB (10-19 overall, 6-11 in the Big West Conference) pulled into a tie with the Titans (14-16 overall, 6-11 in the Big West) for seventh in the league standings. The Gauchos host UC Riverside on Saturday night while Fullerton travels to Cal Poly for its final regular season game. A win over the Highlanders or a Titan loss to the Mustangs would give Santa Barbara the No. 7 seed in the Big West Tournament.
The Titans slowed the pace to a crawl for much of the game and trailed the Gauchos 23-22 as the game went to halftime. Williams had 11 of his points and eight of his rebounds in the first half.
"They were trying to shorten the game and they did a very good job of it," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "I thought the way they played caused us to be out of sync, especially in the first half. We got it rolling a little in the second half and stretched the lead."
Jared Brandon scored the first basket of the second half to give the Titans a brief 24-23 lead, but the Gauchos went on 8-0 and 13-2 runs to pull out to a 36-26 edge with 13:26 remaining in the game. Michael Bryson, who finished with 14 points for the second straight game, culminated the run with a three-pointer from above the top of the key.
Fullerton crept back to within four points twice in the final 12 minutes, the last time at 42-38 when James Douglas made a three-pointer at the 9:06 mark.
Kyle Boswell, who scored 10 points, answered Douglas' three with one of his two, pushing the lead back to 45-38 with 8:45 left. After a free throw by Bryson gave the Gauchos an eight-point edge, the Titans used a slam dunk by Alex Harris and one-of-two free throws from Douglas to make it a 46-41 game with 7:11 left in the game.
Kwame Vaughn, who finished with a team-high 20 points, made his only three-pointer of the night to make the score 53-44, but a free throw by Williams put the UCSB lead into double-figures for good, 54-44 with 3:36 remaining in the game.
"This was the best that Taran (Brown) has played in four games," Coach Williams said. "He seemed more comfortable in the mask that the last two games and he had the effort to match."
On Feb. 26, Brown broke his nose in practice prior to the Gauchos' game at Hawaii. He played that game and then the Mar. 2 game at Cal State Northridge with a protective mask. In 34 total minutes in those games he was scoreless and held without a rebound.
Thursday night, Brown made 5-of-10 field goal attempts and had 11 points. He also added eight rebounds, two blocked shots, three assists and a steal.
As a team, UCSB shot just 37.5% in the first half, but was much more solid in the second half, making 15-of-30, 50.0%. The Gauchos also pounded Fullerton on the boards, 42-25.
The Gauchos return home for their final regular season game on Saturday, Mar. 9 when they host UC Riverside at 7:00 p.m. The team's only senior, Nate Garth, will be honored in a ceremony prior to the game. 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.