MBK: Oral Roberts runs down Gauchos

TULSA, Okla. – UC Santa Barbara received several outstanding performances on Wednesday night, but in the end hot-shooting Oral Roberts was just too much as the Gauchos fell in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational, 91-87.


UCSB (19-14) was led by freshaman Gabe Vincent who set a school record for points by a freshman in postseason game with 22. Senior Alan Williams, playing the final game of his storied career, fittingly recorded his 50th career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while junior John Green added 18 points, making all four of his three-point attempts in the process.

The Gauchos led by as many as six points in the second half, but trailing 77-75 with 5:15 left in the game, ORU (19-14) went on an 11-0 run to take an 86-77 lead with 2:40 to play. Aaron Young scored nine points during the rally, making a trio of three-point shots, while Brandon Conley hit two free throws.

“That kid just caught fire,” said UCSB head coach Bob Williams of Young’s late-game surge. “He got some open looks, but you have to give him credit, he knocked-down the shots.”

The 11-0 rally by the Golden Eagles was one of two big surges that they had in second half. The Gauchos led 59-54 on a breakaway slam dunk by Michael Bryson with 14:49 on the clock, but ORU went on a 17-3 run over a 6:12 span to take a 71-62 lead with 8:24 left in the game.

Vincent, however, scored the first nine points for the Gauchos’ during an 11-2 rally that erased the deficit and tied the score 73-73 at the 6:48 mark. Williams scored the final two on a nifty reverse lay-up. After Young made a free throw line jumper for ORU, Williams re-tied the score with a pair of free throws, and then after a Golden Eagle turnover, Bryson made a short hook shot in the key to give UCSB its final lead, 77-75, setting the stage for ORU’s final rally.

Trailing 86-77, the Gauchos showed some life as they scored seven straight, five by Bryson and a pair by Williams, to make the score 86-84 with 31 seconds left.

Bobby Word was fouled with 25 seconds left and made one-of-two free throws to make it an 87-84 game. Santa Barbara’s Zalmico Harmon went in for a lay-up through traffic that missed, but the ball was knocked out to Bryson who was in the right corner. Bryson’s three-point attempt glanced off the front of the rim and was rebounded by Obi Emegano, who was fouled.

Emegano, who finished with a game-high 30 points, made both free throws to extend the lead to 89-84. A three by Harmon, his third of the game, narrowed the gap to 89-87, but two more free throws by Emegano made the final margin 91-87.

“I saw a lot of good things for us tonight,” Coach Williams said. “I thought Gabe (Vincent) was tremendous, especially in the second half, and that is very exciting. I also thought John (Green) had a great game, and I’m excited about that.”

Coach Williams also had great praise for Alan Williams, who completed his four-year career as the school’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,732 points and its all-time leading rebounder with 1,125, the second highes total in Big West Conference history.

“Any time you see a career like Al’s end, you get a little sad,” Coach Williams said. “He has been truly one of the most special players that this school has ever seen, and just as importantly, he’s really one of the finest people it’s ever seen. He and Z (Zalmico Harmon, the Gauchos’ only other senior) are both special in so many ways and it’s been an honor to coach them and to have them as part of this program.”

Harmon finished with 12 points, while Bryson added 11, giving UCSB five players in double-figures for the first time this season. The team’s starters scored 82 of its 87 points. Bryson also had eight rebounds and two steals. As a team, the Gauchos made 47.1% of their shots, including 10-of-23 from three-point range, 43.5%. Both Vincent’s 22 points and Green’s 18 points were the second highest scoring totals of their respective careers.

Oral Roberts shot a blazing 55.6% overall, including 60.7% in the second half. The Golden Eagles made 11-of-19 shots from outside the three-point arc, including 8-for-13 in the final 20 minutes, 61.5%.