Inspired Gauchos Crush UNLV, 86-65

Eric Childress (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Eric Childress (Photo by Tony Mastres)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The UC Santa Barbara basketball team started the night by getting some bad news, but then responded with one of its most impressive overall games in recent years, defeating UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, 86-65 on Tuesday night.

The Gauchos (2-0) got the bad news on the bus ride between the team's hotel and the arena when head coach Bob Williams announced to the team that their teammate, John Green, would be sidelined from 3-6 weeks with an injury to his left foot. Green returned this season after missing two full years with foot injuries and while this one doesn't appear as serious, it made for a very quiet ride.

"John handled it incredibly well," Williams said. "All he did after we told the team was inspire them to focus on the game tonight. It was all about the team and not just about him. He is a very impressive young man."

UCSB looked inspired out the outset and led 11-6 when Michael Bryson made a three-pointer with 14:48 to play in the first half. But the Runnin' Rebels (1-1) rallied and took a 13-11 lead on a layup by Jamal Aytes with 12:37 left.

That was the last time the Gauchos trailed in the game. They outscored UNLV 34-16 in the final 12 minutes of the half to take a commanding 45-29 lead at the break. Taran Brown got the rally started with a three-pointer and freshman point guard Eric Childress ended it with a three of his own with 11 seconds left and a pair of free throws with just over a second to play.

Kyle Boswell, who finished with 19 points, scored nine during the run that ended the half, hitting three consecutive threes during one stretch. 

"We got contributions from so many people," Williams said. "I thought we did a good job of running our offense and we really protected the ball." 

UCSB pushed the big halftime lead to 52-32 when Boswell made another three-pointer less than three minutes into the second half. UNLV crept back within 54-39 on a 7-2 run that culminated with a tip-in by Aytes at the 14:54 mark.

The Gauchos were up to the task again, scoring seven straight on a baseline jumper by Alan Williams, another three by Brown and a beautiful driving layup by Bryson. The lead had ballooned to 61-39.

"Our response when they got it to 15 was just outstanding," said Coach Williams. "We defended, rebounded and really got it going in transition."

UNLV would never cut the lead under 20 the rest of the way and Santa Barbara actually pushed it to as many as 26 (74-48) when Boswell made his fifth three-pointer with exactly seven minutes to play in the game.

The Gauchos finished the game having made 29-of-52 shots overall, 55.8%, and 9-of-14 from outside the three-point arc, 64.3%.

"You've got to give them credit," said UNLV head coach David Rice. "They really got into their offense and ran some great stuff. It was a great inside-outside job."

Alan Williams finished with a game-high 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds. He also had three blocked shots. Boswell's five three-pointers moved him into the school's all-time top-10 in the category with 151.

Guard Kevin Olekaibe had 15 points, Kendall Smith added 13 and Aytes had 10 for the Runnin' Rebels. Roscoe Smith had a game-high 12 rebounds.

UCSB received outstanding contributions from several other players. Zalmico Harmon and Bryson joined Childress with nine points apiece. Sam Beeler had five points and seven rebounds, Taran Brown had eight points and six boards, and Shawn Moore had career-highs of six points and five rebounds.

As a team, the Gauchos committed just nine turnovers against UNLV's pressure defense. In two games, they now have just 17 turnovers. 

"That's a testament to good point guard play," said Coach Williams of the play his team has received from Harmon and Childress. "It also speaks well of Kyle (Boswell) who is really handling the ball so well this year."

UCSB returns home on Saturday, Nov. 16 to host another former Big West rival in Utah State. The game will tip-off at 7:00 PM at the Thunderdome. Tickets are available from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking here.