SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – For the third time this season, UC Santa Barbara played a Pac-12 opponent. Despite leading late in the second half of the first two games, the Gauchos lost at Colorado and UCLA, but the third time was the charm as they defeated Cal 72-65 on Friday night at the Thunderdome.
"These guys deserved this win," said head coach Bob Williams. "We've been so close to breaking through with a big home win in the past and just couldn't get over the hump, so this was pretty special."
UCSB (4-3) led by as many as eight points in the first half, but the Golden Bears (6-3) rallied to take a 28-27 lead at the break.
Led by Williams, who had another huge second half with 20 of his 24 points, the Gauchos jumped out of the gates quickly and seized a 40-34 lead when Williams converted a three-point play with 15:04 left in the game.
But Cal pushed back and trailing just 48-47 with just under 11 minutes to play, the Golden Bears had a chance to take the lead when Richard Solomon went up for what looked like a slam dunk. Mitch Brewe, however, blocked the dunk attempt and that seemed to spur the Gauchos.
Kyle Boswell followed Brewe's block with a three-pointer from deep in the right corner to make it 51-47. Brown then scored seven straight points, including a dunk off a nice feed from Zalmico Harmon, a three-pointer and a put-back. Harmon completed the run with a baseline jumper from the left side.
Cal rallied again with six straight to cut the UCSB lead to 60-55, but another three-point play by Williams turned the momentum again and gave the Gauchos a 63-55 lead with 4:38 to play.
With 2:56 left and UCSB leading 65-57, Brown blocked another dunk attempt, this one by David Kravish and then after a scramble for the rebound resulted in a held ball, Brown stole the inbounds pass.
"Taran made some huge plays for us tonight," Bob Williams said. "He is just now finding himself and it's exciting to see. He is maturing and really getting better and better everyday."
The closest Cal came the rest of the way was 66-62 with 1:42 remaining on a dunk by Kravish. The Gauchos made their last six free throws, however, to hold onto the lead: four by Boswell and two by Harmon.
Boswell had 10 points for the Gauchos, joining Williams and Brown in double-figures. Harmon had nine points and a career-high 10 assists. Mitch Brewe added a season-high six points, six rebounds and a key block.
Jordan Mathews led Cal with 22 points. Justin Cobbs added 13, Kravish 12 while Solomon had nine points and 11 rebounds.
As a team, UCSB continued its torrid shooting, making 50.9% for the game, including 59.3% in the second half. The Gauchos also limited the Golden Bears to 36.1% shooting for the game, 35.3% in the second half.
The Gauchos will be off until Dec. 15 when they travel to the University of San Diego for a 2:00 p.m. game against the Toreros.