PROVO, Utah — UC Santa Barbara’s Gauchos prepared BYU for Santa as the Cougars took an 89-75 victory Thursday night in the Marriott Center into the Christmas break in front of 10,670 fans.
UC Santa Barbara (5-5) gave BYU another tune-up for next week’s West Coast Conference debut as the Cougars (10-3) won their second-consecutive game and improved to 6-1 at home.
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The stingy Gauchos of the Big West Conference had previously beaten all three WCC opponents faced this season, Santa Clara, Portland and San Diego.
Freshman Matt Carlino led the Coguars with 22 points and six assists, followed by Noah Hartsock’s 21 points in a game of streaks and runs.
"We're into starting our fourth point guard and that's a real challenge," said BYU head coach Dave Rose. "We've got guys playing different positions, we've got guys that are hurt, and we don't have a lot of practice time."
As former BYU coach Ladell Andersen was fond of saying, “no one deserves to lose a game just before Christmas,” and UCSB fought valiantly in its fourth contest of its five-game road stretch.
For the third game in a row, BYU got off to a sluggish start, missing its first two shots before Carlino converted an old-fashioned three-point play to close a 4-0 deficit in the first minute of play.
Davies hit three-consecutive field goals to knot the score nine-all. UCSB’s prolific scorer Orlando Johnson equaled that production, including a three-pointer to put the Gauchos up 14-9 in the first four minutes.
The Gauchos then switched to a trapping defense, while the Cougars camped in a zone to change the game’s tempo. The Cougars got their first lead at 18-17 with 9:42 remaining in the first half after a pair of Abouo buckets, a high lay-in and a trey.
Then it was Hartsock’s turn for consecutive buckets off a pair of lay-ins to knot the score at 20 and 22. BYU returned to its man-to-man defense, which accounted for the bulk of five takeaways as it increased its second lead of the game on a 10-2 run.
Those UCSB miscues led to Davies snaring an offensive rebound for a put-back and Davies getting the proverbial off the opponent’s legs out-of-bounds save which led to Hartsock’s 10th point of the half.
Carlino got a halfcourt steal for a lay-in and Damarcus Harrison forced a five-second call which led to a patented Hartsock fadeaway, extending the lead to 30-24. Hartsock was 6-of-7 from the field to that point.
Then BYU went on a dry spell thanks for a Gaucho zone. Gaucho James Nunnally, who tied for team scoring honors with Orlando Johnson at 22, got a kiss-off-the-backboard banker to knot the score, 30-30.
Brock Zylstra then canned a three-pointer to give BYU its third lead of the half. In the final minute of the first half, Carlino took his turn at consecutive field goals, a shake-and-bake swish inside the arc and another outside the arc at the buzzer for his 10th point, giving the Cougars a 38-32 halftime lead.
BYU’s second half offensive thrust started via Hartsock, who converted a pair of free throws, then maneuvered for a layup and a 42-38 lead.
Later in the second half, Zylstra drove hard to the basket and was smacked in the face while converting a layup, drawing a flagrant foul. The junior hit one of two free throws, then canned a trey on the ensuing out-of-bounds play to put BYU up 64-49, one point shy of being the fifth Cougar in double-figure scoring.
A field goal void started to plague the Cougars as the Gauchos closed the gap to 67-60 on with a Cougar dry spell over three minutes. That scoring drought ended when Abouo was fouled as he stole the ball from the Gauchos on their end of the court and converted a pair of three throws at 6:50. He returned to the line to convert another pair seconds later as BYU took a 71-62 lead.
Carlino was fouled in an attempt to lift the lid on field goals, but missed both pitches before nailing his three-pointer at four minutes as BYU took a 78-67 advantage. Davies rolled for a lay-in plus one as the Cougars expanded to an 81-69 margin following a timeout.
The Cougars host a post-Christmas tune up against Cal State San Marcos on Tuesday, Dec. 27, at 7 p.m. MT before opening league play on Thursday, Dec. 29, at 8 p.m. PT at Saint Mary’s. The San Marcos game will be televised on BYUtv while the game against the Gaels will tip-off on ESPN2.
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