OREM, Utah — Jesse Byrd scored 13 points and collected 11 rebounds, and freshman guard Will Brew added 11 points in his first career start to lead a balanced scoring attack as UCSB defeated Utah Valley on the road Thursday night, 62-57.
The Gauchos (4-4) were playing without leading scorer Chris Devine, who missed the game with a sprained ankle. Despite the absence of Devine, they were able to hand the Wolverines (4-2) their first home loss of the season.
A key to UCSB’s win was the defense it played on UVU senior guard Ryan Toolson. The Glendale, Ariz., native entered the game averaging 27.4 points per game and shooting 57 percent from three-point range. On Thursday night, Toolson was limited to 19 points, making just 7-of-22 shots from the field overall and 3-for-15 from three-point territory.
“I thought we did a good job on Toolson, particularly in the first half,” head coach Bob Williams said. “In the second half, I thought they (Utah Valley) did a very good job of running their offense. They run a lot of good stuff, and that was one of the reasons they got back into the game.”
The Gauchos didn’t trail in the game after James Powell made a three-pointer with 12:04 left in the first half, giving them a 14-13 lead. The lead ballooned to as many as 16 points in the second half, the last time coming on a free throw by Byrd with 7:17 to play making the score 58-52.
At that point, the Wolverines started to whittle the advantage, aided in great part by UCSB’s troubles from the free-throw line. For the game, the Gauchos made just 11 out of 25 free throw attempts, 44 percent. In the final 6:25, they hit just 4-for-15 and the lead dipped to three, 60-57, with 24 seconds to play.
In the final 24 seconds, D.J. Posley and Paul Roemer each made 1-of-2 shots from the free throw line and Toolson missed a long three-point attempt, accounting for Santa Barbara’s final margin of 62-57.
While the Gauchos had their problems at the free throw line, they had their best game of the season from the field, making 23 out of 43 attempts, 53.5 percent. On the flip side, they held an outstanding shooting Utah Valley team to 20-of-55, 36.4 percent. In addition, the Wolverines made just 6-of-24 from three-point range, 25 percent.
For Byrd, it was the first double-double of his career, and the 11 rebounds were a career-high. He is averaging 15 points and 9.5 rebounds in the last two games.
Brew’s 11 points were a career-high. He scored 10 of the 11 in the pivotal first half as UCSB built a lead that it never relinquished. Powell added nine points, while Jaimé Serna and Posley each had eight. It was a career-high for Serna.
The Gauchos, who have played their last five games away from home, going 3-2 over that span, will return to the Thunderdome to host Loyola Marymount at 7 p.m. Dec. 13. The game, along with the UCSB women’s game against Harvard on Dec. 17, will be free to all emergency personnel who worked during the recent Tea Fire and last summer’s Gap Fire in Santa Barbara County. All firefighters, and other emergency workers, need only to present their identification at the Thunderdome box office on the day of the game to receive two free tickets.
In addition, the first 500 in attendance at the UCSB-Loyola Marymount game on Dec. 13 will receive a free foam finger, and all youths age 13 or younger will get in free.
Bill Mahoney is a UCSB assistant director of athletics communications.