SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara men's basketball team used a 16-3 run with 13:31 left in the second half up 43-37 to help them push past visiting Sacramento State and eventually defeat them 75-58 giving the home team its fifth consecutive win.
"What kept us in this game all night, and pushed us forward, was the defense. We are defending and rebounding at a high level and if you can get your team to buy in on that then we will be a good team," Head Coach Joe Pasternack said.
The Gauchos (6-1) 16-3 run came at the perfect time as it helped them take a commanding 59-40 lead with just over eight minutes left in the game. Graduate guard Ar'mond Davis and freshman Amadou Sow each contributed 14 points in UCSB's 17-point win over the Hornets (3-1) handing them their first loss of the year.
Davis, despite shooting just 1-4 from the field in the first half, came alive in the second making four of his eight attempts including two big three's, one during the 16-3 stretch, and one that proved to be the dagger as it gave the Gauchos a 73-56 lead with just 2:27 left in the game.
"I was just overthinking it in the first half but in the second half I calmed down and just played my game and everything worked out," Davis said. "Overall, everyone wanted to play as hard as we could and we came out with a great win."
Defensively, UCSB was great all night but, in particular, sophomore transfer guard JaQuori McLaughlin did a tremendous job on Sac State's Marcus Graves who came into the game averaging 15 points and nine assists. McLaughlin's stellar defense held Graves to just eight points, one assist, and also forced five turnovers.
"I put McLaughlin on the best player on the other team and he played unbelievable defensively. I think he is the best defensive player on our team and he did an awesome job tonight and followed the game plan to help us win," Pasternack said.
"I just played really hard, it is all about effort on defense and coach gave me a good game plan that I followed and it worked out for us," McLaughlin said.
Another one of the biggest keys to Santa Barbara's victory today was the fact that the team rebounded exceptionally well. Five Gauchos had five or more rebounds and as a team, they outrebounded the Hornets, 40-27.
What makes this win even better is the fact that coming into this contest, Sac State had already defeated two other Big West teams, Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis.
"Before the game, I told our guys we are going to use this game to judge us against the rest of our conference and I am really proud of how good we played today," Pasternack said.
In the first half, UCSB struggled to take care of the ball turning it over 11 times but did manage to shoot 42 percent from the field while holding Sac State to just 28 percent shooting giving them a five-point lead heading into the break, 32-27.
Sékou Touré played a big role off the bench in the first half scoring nine points and adding six rebounds in just eight minutes of play. McLaughlin also added two three balls that helped UCSB take a halftime lead.
To start the second half, both teams came out playing more intensely as they traded baskets. It wasn't until back-to-back layups from guard Devearl Ramsey that ignited the 16-3 run that helped the Gauchos really catch their offensive stride. Sow also added four points during the run that was eventually capped off by a Robinson Idehen dunk with 8:06 left in the game.
From there it seemed as though Santa Barbara would coast to victory but Sac State put together one final run cutting it to 13 with about four and a half minutes left in the game.
With the shot clock winding down on the Gauchos next possession, McLaughlin hit a huge three-ball from the deep left wing that would put an end to the run. McLaughlin had the best night of his UCSB career from three tonight shooting 3-5 from beyond the arc scoring a total of 13 points.
Overall, UCSB shot 47.1 percent from the field and 38 percent from three and also held Sac State to 40.8 percent shooting from the field and just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc.
The Gauchos depth also played a key role tonight as they outscored the Hornets 25-16 with 11 players earning minutes.
"I have never been apart of a team that plays 11 players and we are able to do that because guys step up," Pasternack said. "We are able to shuffle guys in and keep playing really, really hard."
UCSB will travel to Seattle to take on the University of Washington at 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 2 at the Alaska Airlines Arena.