SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – On Saturday afternoon, UC Santa Barbara found out that there's nothing like a 19-0 second half run to make-up for the absence of your best player, a second starter and a another regular.
Trailing 40-33 with just under 17 minutes to play, the Gauchos (10-9 overall, 3-2 in Big West), who were missing Alan Williams, Gabe Vincent and DaJuan Smith, outscored Cal State Fullerton (8-12, 0-5) 19-0 to take a 52-40 lead on a lay-up by John Green lead with 10:46 left in the game. The Titans never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
"At halftime we talked about not turning the ball over and playing defense," said head coach Bob Williams. "Fullerton really shot the ball well in the first half, but we knew that if we just played hard on the defensive end cut back on the turnovers, that would change."
To say that the Titans came back to the pack in the second half would be an understatement. After shooting 46.7% overall and making 6-of-13 three-point attempts to take a 36-31 halftime lead, Fullerton made just 4-of-29 field goal attempts in the second half, 13.8%, including 1-for-10 from outside the three-point arc. In all, after being outscored 4-0 to start the second half, UCSB outscored the Titans 37-9 the rest of the way.
"We got great contributions from a lot of guys," Coach Williams said. "As a team, we realize that with Big Al, Gabe and DaJuan out, others are going to have to step-up, and they did."
Michael Bryson scored 23 points and added eight rebounds, John Green recorded the first double-double of his career with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Eric Childress tied his career high with 11 points while also adding five rebounds and four assists. Bryson was also a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line and extended his streak of consecutive made free throws to 34, a school record.
"That's the best Eric has played," said Coach Williams. "On a night when Zalmico Harmon wasn't at his best, Eric was and that was very important for us."
Green scored the first seven points of the game, including a three-pointer to open the scoring, but after trailing 10-2, the Titans went on a 12-2 run to tie it on a three by Lanerryl Johnson. The game see-sawed the rest of the first half until the visitors ended it on a 5-0 streak to take their 36-31 halftime lead, setting the stage for just the Gauchos' second win this season after trailing at the break.
UCSB got contributions for several other players as well. Mitch Brewe had seven points, four rebounds and two blocked shots. Alex Hart had six points, including a three-pointer and a three-point play, and Sam Beeler had two points, four rebounds and two blocked shots. In fact, it was Beeler's pick-and-roll dunk that ignited the 19-0 run.
The Titans were led by Johnson who had 20 points, making 4-of-8 shots from three-point range. Steven McClellan had seven points and 12 rebounds.
The Gauchos will hit the road for their next two games, traveling to UC Davis for a 7:00 p.m. game on Thursday, Jan. 29, and then to UC Irvine on Saturday, Jan. 31 in another 7:00 p.m. game.