MBK: Gauchos get defensive in win over Long Beach

Michael Bryson scored 13 points to lead a balance scoring attack, Alan Williams added a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds, and UC Santa Barbara produced one of its best defensive games of the season en route to a 64-51 win over visiting Long Beach State on Thursday night.

The Gauchos (10-5 overall and 1-1 in the Big West) limited the 49ers (5-12, 1-2) to 29.9% shooting overall and just 18.5% from three-point territory.

“I was more pleased with the way we came out and played tonight,” said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. “They (Long Beach) are a better shooting team than what we saw and their problems weren’t all because of what we did, but I thought our effort was better.”

Williams was referring to UCSB’s 72-64 loss to Cal Poly in its last game when the Mustangs shot over 60-percent from three-point territory.

The game was tight throughout the first half and with the score tied at 24 and the final seconds running down, Eric Childress penetrated the lane and hit a cutting Sam Beeler with a perfect pass. Beeler rewarded Childress with a slam dunk as the buzzer sounded to give the Gauchos a 26-24 lead at the half.

The Gauchos opened the second half with a 24-7 run over the first 11:09 to take a comfortable 50-31 lead. They led one other time by 19, but Long Beach started to pick away and got within eight twice, the final time at 54-46 on a slam dunk by A.J. Spencer with 4:13 to play.

UCSB responded to the challenge with back-to-back dunks by Taran Brown and Bryson to push the lead back to 58-46 with 2:30 remaining. The advantage never dropped into single-digits again.

“We got a little loose with the ball when we went up big,” Williams said. “From a turnover standpoint, this wasn’t a good game for us, but we were able to make up for it in other areas.”

The Gauchos finished with a season-high 19 turnovers.

Mitch Brewe had his second career-high scoring night in the last three games with 12 points. He scored six of his points on a pair of threes. Zalmico Harmon finished with seven points, four rebounds and nine assists, just one shy of his career-high.

As a team, UCSB made 28-of-55 shots, 50.9%, and 6-of-15 from outside the three-point arc. Mike Caffey led the 49ers with a game-high 21 points, but no other Long Beach player was in double-figures.

Santa Barbara will hit the road for its next three games, beginning with a 7:30 game at Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Jan. 18. The contest will be aired on Fox Sports Priime Ticket. The Gauchos will remain on the road and play at UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton next Thursday and Saturday respectively.