SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara used a stunning 18-2 rally late in the second half of its Big West opener to turn a 40-30 deficit into a 48-42 lead en route to a 50-45 win over Cal Poly on Saturday night.
The Gauchos (8-7 overall, 1-0 Big West) scored just 10 points over the first 12:55 of the second half, but when Alan Williams made a short turnaround with 7:04 left in the game to cut the Mustangs' (8-6, 1-1) lead to 40-32, it opened the flood gates.
Michael Bryson made a lay-up with 6:14 left and then Hunter Ford, Bryson and Gabe Vincent hit three-point baskets to give UCSB a 43-40 lead with 2:04 remaining. After David Nwaba stopped the bleeding with a jumper in the middle of the key, Bryson nailed another three from deep in the right corner go make it 48-42 with 1:18 on the clock. Zalmico Harmon completed the 18-2 run, making two free throws after he was intentionally fouled with 47 seconds left.
"Some times you have to steal one," said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. "We really struggled for 32 minutes or so, but then we had some guys hit some really big shots. We had to dig deep to win this one and we did."
John Green's three-point play with 14:59 left in the game was UCSB's only basket of the second half until Vincent's three-point play with 10:33 left in the game. The Gaucho freshman then drilled a three-pointer less than a minute later to narrow the score to 36-29. After a free throw by Williams made it 36-30, Brian Bennett scored back-to-back baskets to push the Mustang lead to 40-30, setting the stage for the devastating 20-5 game-ending run by Santa Barbara.
"Gabe (Vincent) and Michael (Bryson) made some very big shots," Coach Williams said. "Gabe didn't play at all like a freshman down the stretch and Michael stepped it up when we needed it the most. Hunter's basketball was also huge. He's hardly played and to come in and make a shot like that really helped turn the momentum."
Ford was playing in just his fifth game and his three-pointer with 4:40 left was his fifth basket of the season. He finished the game with three points and three rebounds.
Williams picked-up four fouls in the first 6:22 of the second half, forcing him to the bench. With their backs against the wall, however, the Gauchos had to bring him back with more than nine minutes to play and he went the rest of the way without committing a foul, finishing with nine points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
"Al not picking up his fifth foul was very important," Coach Williams said. "They did a good job on him tonight, but he got some very big rebounds down the stretch, so him staying in the game was extremely important."
Vincent led UCSB with 15 points and he went 3-of-5 from three-point range. Harmon added nine and Bryson finished with eight, all during the 18-2 surge.
The Gauchos shot just 37.0% for the game, but that was significantly better than Cal Poly, which made just 15-of-64 field goal attempts, 23.4%, and 4-for-22 from three-point territory, 18.23%. Bennett finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Joel Awich had a team-high 13 points.
UCSB will play its first conference home game on Friday, Jan. 15 when it hosts Cal State Northridge in a 7:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome. Plenty of tickets remain available and 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.