SANTA BARBARA — UC Santa Barbara men's basketball coach Bob Williams said there were some basic adjustments in the second half that simplified the Gauchos' offense in their 74-71 Big West Conference home win against UC Irvine on Thursday.
But, Williams admitted, there wasn't much complexity to his squad's offensive attack to start with.
"We're basically threes around Al," said Williams, referring to three-point shooters positioned around 6-foot-7, 240-pound sophomore post Alan Williams inside.
Both elements of that equation were functioning at a high level against the Anteaters, particularly in the second half, to allow the Gauchos (5-8, 1-1 in conference) to erase a 13-point first-half lead and hand UCI (7-8, 1-1) its first conference loss.
Williams, who had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots, made a three-point play with seven seconds left to break a 71-71 deadlock.
Taran Brown, UCSB's 6-8 freshman, blocked a three-point attempt from the corner by Alex Young in the final seconds to halt the Gauchos' three-game losing streak.
Williams banged, spun and leaped for his inside points against smaller, lighter opponents. He was eight of 16 from the field and six of nine from the foul line. And when UCI did manage to get a body on him and a hand up inside, Williams was more than happy to dish to the perimeter, where his teammates made 13 of 26 attempts from beyond the arc.
UCSB sophomore reserve Kyle Boswell made six of 10 three-point tries on his way to a career-high-tying 23 points to lead all scorers. The Edison High product had 19 points and made five of eight from three-point range in the Gauchos' road victory at UCI last season.
Brown connected on four of eight three-point tries and sophomore T.J. Taylor made three of four to help the hosts outgun the Anteaters.
UCI, which scored seven straight points to knot the score at 71 with 1:29 remaining, made 10 of 24 three-pointers, but only four of 14 after halftime, when it led, 37-32.
"[Boswell] comes in with a lot of confidence and he has the ultimate green light," Bob Williams said of his reserve sharpshooter, who came in averaging 11.5 points and 2.7 three-pointers per game. "When you have a good inside player [Williams], you need balance. If you try to take away threes, it gives Al more room."
UCSB made 17 of 27 second-half field-goal tries (63%) and was seven for 12 from threedom (58.3%), to turn things around. Once down, 30-17, with 4:10 left in the opening half, the Gauchos closed the half on a 6-0 run and opened the second half on fire from the field.
"We made a couple adjustments to go to Al quicker [inside], which gave us more time on perimeter looks, when we went inside-out," Bob Williams said. "And we knocked them down, fortunately."
UCI Coach Russell Turner, whose team came in leading the conference in field-goal- and three-point-percentage defense, was disappointed by his team's play in the final 20 minutes, after limiting UCSB to 34.6% from the field in the first half (nine for 26).
"In the second half, they found a rhythm on us that we allowed them to have," Turner said. "That's how you get beat."
Al Williams' effectiveness inside was aided by foul trouble for UCI big men. Senior center Adam Folker sat the final 15:46 of the first half with two fouls and sophomore reserve John Ryan had four first-half fouls.
Turner said he elected not to play 6-8 sophomore Will Davis, but declined to provide specifics beyond "coach's decision."
Davis, who had started 11 of the team's first 14 games, averages 6.4 points and six rebounds per game and is the conference leader in blocked shots.
UCI senior Daman Starring hit four of his six three-pointers in the first half on his way to 21 points, while Young had a career-high 18 points.
Folker had 10 points and a team-best six rebounds in 25 minutes. He had four points during the 7-0 run that allowed UCI to pull even in the closing minutes.
Boswell, Al Williams and Brown (four of eight from threedom) combined for 63 points for the winners.
UCI will try to rebound Saturday, when it visits Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at 7 p.m.
"Road wins are going to be tough to get in the this conference," Turner said. "They are going to be ones you treasure."
Big West Conference
UC Santa Barbara 74, UC Irvine 71
UCI – Wilder 8, McNealy 5, Folker 10, Starring 21, Young 18, Souza 7, Clifford 2.
3-pt. goals – Starring 5, Young 2, Wilder 2, Souza 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
UCSB – Thomas 2, Bryson 0, Williams, 22, Brown 18, Taylor 9, Boswell 23.
3-pt. goals – Boswell 6, Brown 4, Taylor 3.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – UCI, 37-32.