SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Alan Williams had 19 points and 14 rebounds and Kyle Boswell chipped-in 12 points, including six during the pivotal final minutes, to help UC Santa Barbara to a 56-46 win over UC Riverside on Saturday night in the final regular game for both teams.
It was the third straight win for the Gauchos (11-19 overall, 7-11 in the Big West), their longest winning streak of the season. They will enter next week's Big West Conference Tournament at Honda Center in Anaheim as the No. 7 seed and play Pacific in the first round Thursday at noon. The Highlanders (6-25 overall, 3-15 in the Big West) saw their season come to an end.
"We kind of had to gut and grind this one out tonight," said head coach Bob Williams. "They are very physical and play hard and I it took us a while to get going in the first half. I thought it was important that we made a little run late in the first half to cut into their nine-point lead. Then we got a little rhythm going late in the game."
UCSB struggled through the first half, trailing by as many as nine at 23-14, but ended the half on a 7-1 run to pull within 24-21 at the break. The Gauchos made just 35.0% of their shots and had eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
Early in the second half it was the same story with Riverside holding Santa Barbara at bay. But the Gauchos finally tied the score at 32 apiece with 13:15 left on three-point play by Michael Bryson who he was fouled while making acrobatic lay-up.
A free throw by Taran Brown just 45 seconds later gave UCSB its first lead since the score was 4-2 in the opening minutes.
The Highlanders used a three-point basket by Chris Harriel, who finished with a team-high 18 points, to reclaim the lead, 35-33. The advantage see-sawed over the next several minutes, but the Gauchos edged ahead for good, 44-41 with 3:56 remaining in the game, on a three-pointer from deep in the right corner by Boswell.
The three by Boswell stated UCSB on a lethal 11-0 stretch and after Williams made a free throw to push the lead to 45-41, it was Boswell striking again. This time the junior drove down the lane and was fouled while sinking a tough lay-up. He made the free throw to give his team a 48-41 advantage with just over two minutes to play.
Four more free throws by Williams capped the 11-0 run and gave the Gauchos an insurmountable 52-41 lead with 1:28 left on the clock. A pair of dunks, one each from Bryson and Taran Brown, in the final minute gave Santa Barbara its final total of 56 points.
In addition to his game-high point and rebound totals, Williams added five blocked shots, tying his career-high. The double-double was his 15th of the season. Bryson added 11 points and Brown had six, along with seven rebounds and four assists, for the Gauchos.
As a team, UCSB made just 39.6% of its field goal attempts, but Riverside was even worse at 29.3%. Both teams hit just 5-of-19 shots from outside the three-point stripe, 26.3%.
Austin Quick, the brother of former Gaucho Nick Quick, added 15 points and seven boards for the Highlanders.
Tickets are still available for the 2013 Big West Tournament, which begins at Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday afternoon. UCSB-Pacific will tip-off at noon and begin a day that will see four games played.