DAVIS, Calif. – Max Heidegger scored 31 points, including 27 in the second half, but it wasn't enough for UC Santa Barbara to overcome a sluggish first half in an 84-75 loss at UC Davis, ending a three-game winning streak, on Thursday night.
The Gauchos (16-9 overall, 5-5 Big West) were coming off of a weekend that saw them defeat UC Irvine and Hawai'i, but on Thursday they fell behind the Aggies (11-15, 5-5) early and, despite Heidegger's heroics, couldn't battle all the way back.
"You have to give UC Davis a lot of credit," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "They were tough and physical. Their mental and physical approach was greater than ours tonight."
After taking a brief 5-2 lead early in the game, UCSB was outscored 21-3 over the next eight minutes falling behind 23-8. Following a 13-4 run that made it a 27-21 game, Davis ended the first half on a 9-3 run to take a 36-24 lead at halftime.
The Aggies kept up the assault to begin the second half using an 18-9 surge to take a 54-33 lead when Stefan Gonzalez made a driving layup along the baseline with 12:54 to play in the game.
After the teams traded baskets – a put back by Brandon Cyrus for UCSB and another Gonzalez layup for Davis – Heidegger, who made his second three-pointer of the game early in the second half, really went to work, scoring 24 points over a span of 9:17.
The senior guard's final basket came when he made a pull-up three-pointer, his eighth of the game, on a fast break with 1:23 to play, making the score to 74-67, the closest it would get. He would foul out with 19 seconds on the clock.
"Max has that type of explosiveness in him," Pasternack said "He almost got us back in the game tonight."
Freshman guard Ezra Manjon, who finished with a game-high 20 for the Aggies, made a pair of free throws with 1:16 left, to begin a stretch when they hit 10-of-12 free throws to hold the Gauchos at bay.
The 31-point performance was the second highest total of Heidegger's career and he tied his career-high with eight three-point baskets. In fact, while he was one away from tying the school record for threes in a game at any distance, he set a new mark at the current distance, which is the same as international distance, which came into play this season. Overall, he was 11-of-19 from the field and 8-of-12 from three-point range, but he was 10-of-15 and 7-of-10 respectively in the second half.
UCSB finished 28-for-61 overall, 45.9%, but it was just 9-of-25 in the first half, 36.0%. The team also hit 12-of-32 three-pointers, but with Heidegger excluded, it was 4-of-20, 20.0%. Also, the Gauchos entered the game as the Big West Conference's best free throw shooting team at 76.9%, but made just 7-of-16 on Thursday night, 43.8%, and they were outrebounded, 34-28.
Davis made 28-of-50 field goal attempts, 56.0%. The Aggies, the best three-point shooting team in the league, went 7-of-15 against Santa Barbara, 46.7%. They were also 21-of-24 from the free throw line, 87.5%, and have now claimed the league-lead in that category.
Damion Squire added 15 point and Caleb Fuller 13 for the Aggies.
UCSB returns to action on Thursday, Feb. 20 when it travels to Cal State Fullerton for game that will be carried on ESPN3. Tipoff for the game against the Titans is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The Gauchos return to the Thunderdome to host UC Davis on Saturday, Feb. 22 in another 7:00 p.m. game.