King Leads the Way as Gauchos Bounce Back at CSUN, 82-73

Leland King II (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Leland King II (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – In his previous two games, Leland King II seemed somewhat out of sorts. He missed shots, didn't rebound with his usual fervor and simply struggled. On Saturday at Cal State Northridge, UC Santa Barbara welcomed the old Leland King II back in an 82-73 win. 

In losses to UC Davis and UC Irvine, King made just 3-of-21 field goal attempts and totaled nine points and 12 rebounds, but against the Matadors (6-23 overall, 3-12 in the Big West) he hit 11 of his 15 field goal attempts, including both of his three-point shots, to finish with 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds, helping the Gauchos (21-7, 10-4) end their two-game losing streak. 

"It was great to see Leland back playing the way we know he's capable of," said UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack. "We had a good practice yesterday and I think that really helped all of us get focused and into a positive frame of mind." 

The 25 points equaled King's season-high and the double-double was his 14th of the season. He also added season-high five assists.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself so I wasn't really thinking about the last two games," King said. "I thought we came out and played with a lot of energy tonight and a lot of guys stepped-up. This was a good win for us." 

King made all seven of his field goal attempts in the first half and had 17 points at halftime as UCSB built a 39-25 lead. After falling behind by as many as 19 early in the second half, CSUN scratched back within five on two occasions, the last at 63-58 on a dunk by Reggie Theus, Jr., with 6:50 left in the game. 

Perhaps the biggest basket of the game for the Gauchos came with the lead at 66-59 and the shot clock running down. Max Heidegger, who finished with four three-point baskets and 17 points, drove along the baseline into the lane. When the defenders collapsed on him he found Marcus Jackson in the near corner for a wide open three-pointer, pushing the advantage back to 69-59 with 3:36 on the clock. 

After Tavrion Dawson banked in a three-pointer on the other end, Gabe Vincent made his fourth three of the game to make it 72-62 with 2:30 to play. King made a pair of baskets and UCSB hit 6-of-7 free throws the rest of the way to ice the victory. 

Vincent finished with 17 points, while Marcus Jackson had seven to go along with eight assists and just one turnover. Ami Lakoju, making his fifth straight start, scored six points and tied his career-high with 10 rebounds. Jarriesse Blackmon made 3-of-4 shots and had six points. 

After back-to-back games in which they shot in the low 30-percent range, including a season-low 31.6% in Thursday's loss at UC Irvine, the Gauchos made a season-best 58.5% against CSUN, including 11-of-22 from three-point range, 50.0%. They also outrebounded the Matadors, 35-26. 

UCSB returns to action on Thursday, Mar. 1 when it hosts Long Beach State in a game that will air on ESPNU and tip-off at 8:00 p.m. at the Thunderdome.