UCSB (3-0) led from start-to-finish, but the Lions (2-3), kept it close for most of the game by virtue of their 46-27 advantage in rebounds.
"They are a great, tough rebounding team," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "That team fights for every missed shot."
UCSB led 34-24 at halftime, but both teams struggled at the outset of the second half. At the 14 minute media timeout, UCSB had made just 3-of-9 shots from the field, while the Lions were just 2-of-10. Still, a Miles Norris three-point basket with 11:54 to play pushed the Gaucho lead back to 41-32.
Santa Barbara's lead was pushed to double-figures again with 8:57 to play when JaQuori McLaughlin narrowly avoided a steal attempt by Joe Quintana and drained a three-pointer to make it 46-35. Leaupepe responded with a three of his own, LMU's first of the game, to cut the gap back to 46-38.
Following another Lion defensive stand, Leaupepe took a pass above the key, drove the lane for a layup. He made the shot, was fouled by Robinson Idehen and hit the free throw to make it a 46-41 game with 7:55 to play.
After Destin Barnes missed a pair of free throws for UCSB, he fouled Scott on the other end. The Lions' leading scorer, Scott, made both of his free throws and the lead was down to 46-43 with 7:27 remaining. Scott finished with game-highs of 31 points and 12 rebounds.
A pair of free throws by Amadou Sow, who struggled with foul trouble all night, and a three-pointer from the right corner by Sanni stretched the lead back to 51-43 with 6:19 to go. The teams were scoreless for the next 2:14, but a baseline hook shot by Sow and a steal and a coast-to-coast dunk by Norris gave the Gauchos a 9-0 run and a 55-43 lead with 3:58 on the clock.
Another layup by Scott, a turnover by UCSB and a pair of free throws by Dameane Douglas made the score 57-49 with 2:15 left. On the second free throw by Douglas, Leaupepe was whistled for a flagrant elbow. McLaughlin hit two free throws to push the lead back to double-figures, 59-49.
The Gauchos missed an alley-oop attempt and Leaupepe was fouled on the other end. He made 1-of-2 free throws and it was 59-50. Santa Barbara got the ball up the floor in a hurry and the possession ended with a slam dunk by Sow, making it 61-50. Sow fouled out on the next defensive possession, sending Jalin Anderson to the line. He missed both free throws, but the ball was tipped out of bounds by Idehen.
Leaupepe rebounded a miss and was fouled on the put-back attempt by Norris, he missed the first free throw and made the second. Devearl Ramsey was fouled intentionally for Santa Barbara, he went to the line with 51.7 seconds left and made both free throws to put the game out of reach, 63-51.
In the end, McLaughlin led UCSB with 19 points, including 3-for7 from three-point range. He also had a game-high five assists, four rebounds and a steal.
Norris was outstanding with 10 ponts, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a career-high four blocked shots. He made both of his three-point attempts, and his four blocked shots came in the second half as the Gauchos were protecting a lead.
The Gauchos' shot 48.0% in for the game overall and they also made 7-of-17 three-point attempts (41.2%). Also, after missing their first four free throws, they drained 14 in a row to finish 14-of-18, 77.8%. The Lions were just 18-of-59 from the field, 30.5%, and they also made just 1-of-14 three-point attempts, 7.1%. They did have a free-throw advantage, making 21-of-31, 67.7%. UCSB missed its first four free throws, but finished by making 14 in a row to finish 14-for-18, 77.8%.
The Gauchos and Lions will meet again on Saturday, Dec. 12 in a 2:00 p.m. game at Gersten Pavilion on the LMU campus.