Career highs from Kyle Boswell and Alan Williams were much needed for UCSB in Thursday’s 74-71 Big West victory over visiting UC Irvine.
Boswell matched his career high in scoring with 23 points while Williams tied his career high in blocked shots with five. Williams also totaled 22 points and 10 rebounds for his third-straight double-double and seventh for the season.
Williams’ final bucket was the game-winner for the Gauchos, coming with 8 seconds left in the game. Williams was fouled on the shot attempt and converted the 3-point play to give UCSB its three-point lead.
“I didn’t know how much time was left and I knew the ball was in my hands that close to the rim, I got to put something up towards the rim and hope that it goes in,” Williams explained.
Irvine came up empty on its final possession when Taran Brown blocked Alex Young’s three-point attempt in the final second.
The result snaps a three-game losing streak for the Gauchos and leaves both teams 1-1 in conference play.
“We needed a win. There’s no doubt about it,” said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. “We’re beat up, we’re a little bit injured. We got some guys playing out of position and we needed a win. So I think the magnitude of that shot and this win is huge for us at this time.”
The Gauchos were without senior point guard Nate Garth, forcing TJ Taylor into a season-high 35 minutes of court time. Boswell even saw time running the point for several minutes.
“I played a little point today for the first time in my career at UCSB,” Boswell said.
The brief position change didn’t throw Boswell off as the senior knocked down six 3-pointers on 10 attempts. As a team, UCSB sank 13-of-26 shots from 3-point distance.
“Our ability to shoot the three is something that’s helping us a great deal right now,” Bob Williams said.
Daman Starling led Irvine in scoring with 21 points. Freshman Alex Young collected 18 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The Anteaters were the better team in the first half, gaining leads of 13-3 and 30-17. UCSB settled down and outscored Irvine 15-7 in the final four minutes before halftime.
“That just really got us motivated, knowing that all we had to do was pick up our defensive effort and stay matched on defense and we’ll be completely fine,” Alan Williams said. “We did that in the second half and it showed.”
UCSB carried that momentum into the second half and held a 71-64 lead with 4:30 to play.
Irvine’s last-gasp effort tied the score at 71-71 on an Adam Folker layup with 1:30 on the clock. After stopping the Gauchos on their next possession, Irvine had a chance to take the lead but Williams blocked his fifth shot of the game on defense before knocking down the game-winner on the other end of the court over a double team.
UCSB plays again at the Thunderdome on Saturday. It’s an unusual 4 p.m. tip-off to accommodate a Fox Sports television broadcast.
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