March 14, 2013

Bryson's Record Performance Leads Stirring Comeback but Gauchos Lose Thriller to Pacific, 71-68

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Freshman Michael Bryson 29 points, a school record for a freshman, and UC Santa Barbara used a barrage of three-point baskets to forge a stirring comeback, turning a 38-19 first half deficit into a second half lead, but the Gauchos ultimately fell short in a 71-68 loss to the University of the Pacific in the first round of the 2013 Big West Tournament at Honda Center.

Bryson scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half, making six of his seven three-point baskets.  As a team, UCSB was 10-for-20 from three-point range in the final 20 minutes.

The No. 2 seeded Tigers (20-12 overall) had a sizzling start, jumping out to a 38-19 lead with 3:27 to play in the first half.  The Gauchos (11-20 overall) began their rally with a 6-2 run to close the half, cutting the lead to 40-25 at the break. 

Colin Beatty was a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range in the first 20 minutes, scoring 15 of his team-high 26 points.  As a team, Pacific made 8-of-11 three-point attempts in the first half, 72.7%.  UCSB meanwhile, struggled by making just 36.0% of its shots in the half, including just 2-for-10 from outside the three-point arc. 

In the second half, things turned around in a hurry. 

Sophomore T.J. Taylor made a pair of three-point baskets in the opening minutes of the second half to get the Gauchos off to a 6-2 start, cutting the Tigers' lead to 42-31.  After Beatty made a free throw line jumper to extend the score to 44-31, UCSB went on an 8-0 run, the final six coming on consecutive three-pointers by Bryson. 

Beatty made another three to key a 5-0 surge and put Pacific back up by double-figures, 49-39, but threes by Bryson and Taran Brown , and three free throws by Kyle Boswell, who was fouled while attempting a three-pointer, made it a one-point game, 49-48, with 13:24 to play. 

After Rodrigo De Souza scored on a lay-up down the lane, Bryson nailed another three to tie the score at 51 apiece 12:13 on the clock.  Excluding 0-0, it was the game's first tie. 

"Michael was fantastic today," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams.  "At halftime we looked at the box score and they (the Tigers) had made 8-of-11 three-point attempts.  We told the guys that there was on reason we couldn't do that in the second half, and we did." 

The score hovered between a tie and a four-point Pacific lead for the next two minutes, but another three-point bucket by Bryson and one by Boswell gave the Gauchos their first lead of the game, 57-55, with 9:59 to go.

A pair of free throws by Lorenzo McCloud and a tip-in by Beatty put the Tigers back on top, 59-57, but Bryson made yet another triple to make it 60-59 with 8:12 remaining.  

Bryson made a pair of free throws to tie the game for the last time, 66-66, with 1:52 to play.  A McCloud free throw and a baseline lay-up by Travis Fulton pushed the Tigers back in front, 69-66, with 17 seconds left.

The Gauchos opted to go for two instead of three on the next possession and Bryson knifed down the middle for a slam dunk, making it 69-68 with 9.4 seconds to play. 

Then things got even more interesting. 

Pacific got the ball into McCloud who drove up the left sideline.  He was fouled by UCSB's Boswell and went to the line to shoot two free throws.  Apparently, however, as he was being fouled, McCloud threw an elbow that connected with Boswell's face, and he was whistled for a dead ball technical, meaning that he would get his two free throws and then the Gauchos would get two and possession.

Following a lengthy delay as the officials reviewed the video, McCloud and Boswell each missed both of their free throw attempts, but Santa Barbara had one final possession. 

The Gauchos got the ball in and worked to Bryson at the upper-left portion of the three-point arc.  The freshman lined-up the shot, but it rimmed out.  Beatty rebounded and was fouled with 0.7 seconds left.  He made both free throws for the final 71-68 margin. 

UCSB was in the game despite its leading scorer – sophomore Alan Williams – scoring just four points.  He was 1-for-10 from the field, but he did have 10 rebounds.  Brown finished with 16 points and seven boards.  McCloud had 12 and Fulton 11 for the Tigers, which will advance to the semifinals in head coach Bob Thomason's 25th an final season.