Gauchos Top Omaha for 6th Straight Win, 77-70

Jalen Canty (Photo by David Hague)
Jalen Canty (Photo by David Hague)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Max Heidegger scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half while Leland King II and Jalen Canty each added double-doubles as UC Santa Barbara defeated Omaha for its sixth straight win, 77-70 on Tuesday night.

The Gauchos (7-2) trailed 30-29 at halftime outscored the Mavericks (1-9) 48-40 in the second half to surpass their total of six wins for all of last season. 

"It's kind of surreal to think that we've already won more games this year than we did all of last year," Heidegger said. "But it's a testament to what Coach P (head coach Joe Pasternack) and the assistant coaches have done and the talent we have."

Heidegger struggled in the first half, making just 2-of-8 shots from the field and missing both of his free throws. In the second half, he made 6-of-7 shots overall, including 3-of-4 from three-point range. 

"Max is so much more than a shooter," Pasternack said. "He is so good at driving to the basket and finishing, and that's how he got himself started tonight." 

King had a double-double by halftime with 10 points and 10 rebounds and he finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds. It was his fourth consecutive game with 10 or more points and 10 or more rebounds. Canty had a season-high 14 points to go along with 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. 

"Those guys did a nice job inside," Pasternack said. "I thought they were both really active tonight and the numbers show that."

Omaha extended its lead to 34-29 at the start of the second half on layups by Mitch Hahn and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey. But King responded with back-to-back baskets to pull UCSB within 34-33 with 17:51 left in the game. 

Hahn followed King's buckets with a three to make it 37-33, but Heidegger responded with a basket on a strong drive to the basket and his first three-pointer to give the Gauchos their first lead of the second half, 41-39 with 15:15 on the clock. 

The teams traded baskets over the next several minutes and when Hahn, who finished with 13 points, drove baseline and scored on a slam dunk at the 11:39 mark, the game was knotted at 45. 

Another Heidegger three and a driving layup sandwiched around a powerful layup by Canty gave UCSB a 7-0 run and a 52-45 advantage. The Gauchos extended the lead to 67-52 when Gabe Vincent hit a jumper with 5:23 left in the game and the Mavericks never got closer than seven the rest of the way. Vincent finished with 10 points to give his team four players in double-figures. 

"This team is so unselfish," King said. "We set picks for each other, make the extra pass, dive for loose balls. I came here because I wanted to win games and I think we have a lot more wins in us." 

After making just 11-of-31 first half shots, Santa Barbara drained 18-of-30 in the second half, 60.0%. The Gauchos also had 21 assists on their 29 baskets, including a career-high 11 by point guard Marcus Jackson.   

UCSB also received solid contributions from its bench against Omaha. Christian Terrell, returning to the lineup after missing Saturday's game against San Diego with the flu, had seven rebounds in 19 minutes. Ami Lakoju had four points, two rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in his 12 minutes, and Maxwell Kupchak gave the Gauchos the defense that they have become accustomed to. 

"Christian gets seven rebounds in 19 minutes and he we look to him to bring energy off the bench," Pasternack said. "We showed Ami tape of how he played against this team last year, which was good, and we went inside to him two straight times and he responded with baskets. Kupchak comes in a gives us good defense. We saw some good things out of our bench tonight." 

The Mavericks were led by Zach Jackson who finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. J.T. Gibson added 14 points, while K.J. Robinson had 12 points and six assists. Hahn added 13 rebounds to his 13 points. As a team, Omaha finished at 43.9% overall after shooting just 35.1% in the first half. 

The Gauchos will hit the road for their next two games, beginning with a game at Montana State on Saturday, Dec. 9. The game against the Bobcats will tip-off at 1:00 p.m. (PST). Following that game, UCSB will take a week off for final examinations before returning to action at USC on Sunday, Dec. 17.