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UC Santa Barbara, Alan Williams beat California

Dec 7, 2013, 12:17 AM EST

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Credit Mike Montgomery and Cal for heading to southern California to play at UC Santa Barbara. It’s not too often that a program from a BCS conference travels to play at the gym of a mid-major team, but the Golden Bears did that tonight.

Montgomery probably regrets it as Cal lost to UCSB, 72-65.

While Cal may learn from this game and benefit from it in the long run, in the short term it’s a loss — their third loss in the past four games. Tonight wasn’t about Cal, though. It was about the Gauchos — they announced themselves to the nation as a legit team that should not be overlooked.

The best player on the floor was UC Santa Barbara junior forward Alan Williams. If you hadn’t heard of Williams’ name before, then remember it now. Williams tore up the Cal defense for 24 points on 9-15 shooting from the field, to go along with 11 rebounds. For the season, Williams is now averaging 26.8 points and 11 rebounds per game — not too shabby.

Despite owning just a 4-3 record after their win over California, UC Santa Barbara is better than their record may indicate. They suffered back to back close losses to Utah State and Colorado, but were without the services of Williams during these games as he was sidelined with back spasms.

After going 11-20 just a season ago, the Gauchos have turned things around in a big way as they are the team to beat in the Big West, although UC Irvine probably has something to say about that. Owning solid wins over UNLV and Cal, plus competitive losses against Utah State, Colorado, and UCLA, it’s safe to say UC Santa Barbara is a team to pay close attention to over the course of the season.

The Gauchos don’t play again until December 15th when they travel farther south to meet San Diego, which will be another good test. UCSB has really challenged themselves in the non-conference portion of their schedule, and that will pay dividends when they enter Big West play in January.