On a night when he had an outstanding individual performance, UC Davis redshirt junior guard Darius Graham had to commend a rival and old friend.
Even after the Aggies fell 72-66 to UC Santa Barbara on Thursday at the Pavilion to snap the Aggies’ 12-game Big West Conference home winning streak.
Graham, the former Sacramento High standout, had a game-high 19 points in leading four players in double figures for the Aggies (10-13, 5-5).
But there was little to celebrate because his former high school all-star game teammate and Foothill High rival Michael Bryson walked away with the bragging rights in his return to Sacramento for the last time as a college player.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard and Big West Conference Player of the Year candidate had 16 points, 10 rebounds and was a pest all night for the Gauchos (11-12, 5-5).
“He’s a player, he’s a baller,” Graham said of Bryson. “Ever since he’s gotten to (UC Santa Barbara) he’s been a factor and improved his game every year.
“Besides that, he’s a real good guy. It’s good to cheer for him when he’s playing other teams, and it’s fun to compete against him when we are playing each other.”
Bryson, averaging a Big West leading 19.3 points coming in, didn’t put up sizzling offensive numbers. He was 5 of 12 from the floor, including 2 of 6 from beyond the arc. He made all four of his free throws. Five of his 10 rebounds came on the offensive end.
“He’s so talented,” said UCD coach Jim Les. “Good players add to their game. He’s posting up. He’s a good rebounder and he keeps possessions alive.
“And the other thing he is doing is making other guys around him better because we were giving him a lot of attention. He made the right play and the right pass.”
Graham’s two free throws with 10:29 to play cut UC Santa Barbara’s lead to 41-40, but the Gauchos went on a 13-5 run over the next 5½ minutes to gain some breathing room in remaining ahead the rest of the way.
The Aggies made a season-high 11 three-pointers (on 22 attempts), held UC Santa Barbara to 41.5 percent shooting, (22 of 53) including 27.8 on threes (5 of 18) but could not regain the lead after holding a one-point lead briefly early in the first half.
“If you’re telling me we are going to hit 43 percent from the floor and hit 11 threes against the matchup zone, I’m thinking we’re walking out of here happy,” Les said
The Gauchos outscored UCD 26-10 in the paint, forced 14 UCD turnovers and shot 23 of 26 from the foul line.
“I thought it was the hustle plays, the 50-50 balls, the rebounding,” Les added “You look at it, and they get 26 in the paint. That’s supposed to be a strength of ours. ... I didn’t think we were physical enough. They were quicker and more aggressive to the ball.”
Graham, the Aggies point guard, had one of the best offensive games of his career. He was 5 of 8, including 3 of 4 from three, and made all six of his free throws.
Freshman guard Siler Schneider had 13 points and juniors Brynton Lemar and Lawrence White each had 11 for the Aggies, but interior starters Josh Fox, a 6-6 senior, and Neal Monson, a 6-10 junior, were held to a combined 12 points. They also combined for 15 rebounds.
Gabe Vincent had 13 points and Eric Childress, John Green and Sam Beeler had 12 each for Santa Barbara, which is now tied with the Aggies for fourth place in the Big West.
UCD’s last home loss also came against UCSB in a nationally televised game March 1, 2014.
UCD will try to rebound on Saturday when it hosts Long Beach State as part of a doubleheader with the women’s team.
“It was a tough one, but streaks are made to be broken, so we’ve got to start a new one,” Graham said.
The win was the 299th for Bob Williams as the UC Santa Barbara coach. Before moving south, Williams won 158 games at UCD and led the Aggies to a Division II national title in 1998.