MBK: Gauchos bear down, beat the Cal Bears, 72-65

Zalmico Harmon - UCSB Men's Basketball

UCSB’s junior guard Zalmico Harmon dished out 10 assists for the Gauchos on Friday night. (Presidio Sports Photos)

The third Pac-12 opponent this season was the charm for the UCSB men’s basketball team.

After losses at Colorado and UCLA, the Gauchos stepped up and beat Cal, 72-65, before 4,017 at the Thunderdome on Friday night.

It was UCSB’s first win over a Pac-12 team since 2003 and its first ever against Cal.


The Gauchos (4-3) did it by playing tough defense and getting solid play from several players.

UCSB's Alan Williams led all scorers with 24 points.

UCSB’s Alan Williams led all scorers with 24 points.

Alan Williams was a force inside, scoring a game-high 24 points (on 9-of-15 shooting) and grabbing 12 rebounds. Taran Brown scored 14 points and blocked four shots, and Kyle Boswell added 10 points. The play from bigs Sam Beeler and Mitch Brewe, and point guard Zalmico Harmon made a huge difference for the Gauchos. They combined for 17 points, Harmon dished out 10 assists and Brewe grabbed six rebounds.

“I thought we stepped up in how physically we competed tonight,” UCSB coach Bob Williams said. “And it was the help of not just the guys that get all the accolades, but the help of some of our role players, physically. We didn’t back down a step and that’s really good to see.”

Cal was led by guard Jordan Mathews, who hit four 3-pointers en route to 22 points. Justin Cobbs tallied 13 points and David Kravish scored 12 for the Bears (6-3).

UCSB shot 50.9 percent for the game (27-53), 59 percent in the second half, and held Cal to 36 percent shooting (22-61). The Gauchos also outrebounded the Bears, 37-34.

When the game ended, the Gaucho players ran over to the student section and slapped high-fives with their loud and rowdy supporters.

“These guys deserved this win,” said 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.”

A blocked shot by Brewe followed by a 3-pointer by Boswell sparked the Gauchos on a 12-2 run that gave them a 60-49 lead with 7:08 left in the second half.

Cal scored six straight points to cut the Gaucho lead to five, 60-55. The Bears then put on a press and trapped Boswell. But Williams came up to help and Boswell fed him for a layup. Williams was fouled and completed the three-point play for a 63-55 lead with 4:38 to go.

“He played like he was a man on a mission in the second half,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of the 6-8 Alan Williams. ?”Obviously this was huge for (UCSB) to beat a Pac-12 school at home. We didn’t step up, and they did.”

Williams followed his own miss for a 65-57 lead and Brown made a huge block on Kravish. There was a mad scramble on the floor and the Gauchos were called for kicking the ball. UCSB got the ball back when Brown intercepted a long inbound 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.”

Cal was still in striking distance after a dunk by Kravish made it 66-62 with 1:30 to go. But UCSB held the Bears off by making 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the last 1:17

UCSB got off to a good start against the Bears, opening up a 9-3 lead after a dunk by Michael Bryson. The lead expanded to 18-10 after a pair of free throws by Alan Williams.

Cal battled back. A long 3-pointer by Jordan Mathews started a 12-3 run, giving the Bears their first lead of the game at 22-21.

The Gauchos responded with six straight points. Brewe scored inside off a Boswell assist, Brown scored inside and Beeler made a sweet hook shot for a 27-22 advantage.

Cal caught up on a basket by Richard Solomon and a 3-pointer by Cobbs. Two free throws by Mathews put the Bears up 28-27, but UCSB countered when Bryson fed a sprinting Beeler for a dunk at the buzzer and a 29-28 halftime lead.