Gauchos Rally at LMU Falls Short in First Loss of Season, 81-76

JaQuori McLaughlin (Photo by Jeff Liang)
JaQuori McLaughlin (Photo by Jeff Liang)

LOS ANGELES, Calif – UC Santa Barbara rallied back from an 11-point first half deficit to take a second half lead, but couldn't hold on and dropped its first game of the season, 81-76 at Loyola Marymount on Saturday afternoon.

The Gauchos (3-1) took their first lead of the game with 12:21 to play when Ajare Sanni scored seven straight points, the last on a layup and free throw after being fouled, to turn a 50-44 deficit into a 51-50 advantage. 

Ivan Alipiev responded for the Lions with a three-point basket from the corner to beat the shot clock, making it 53-51. JaQuori McLaughlin, who finished with a team-high 21 points, tied the game with a pair of free throws, but Demeane Douglas, who scored a game-high 23, made a three-pointer to put the home team back in front, 56-53. 

A nice layup by Robinson Idehen and then a three by Sanni, who had 18 points, put UCSB up for the last time, 58-56 with 8:57 to play.

A layup by Eli Scott, who finished with just nine points after tying his career-high with 31 in the first game between the two schools on Monday, tied the score and ignited a 10-1 LMU run that culminated with a three-pointer by Joe Quintana with 4:51 left in the game, giving the home team a 66-59 advantage. Quintana finished with 22 points and five three-point baskets.

Santa Barbara, however, didn't go away. Three-pointers by Miles Norris and McLaughlin sandwiched a Douglas jumper and 1-of-2 from the free throw line by Idehen carved the lead to 68-66 with 2:44 on the clock. 

Scott was fouled on the other end and made a pair of free throws to expand the Lions' lead to 70-66. After McLaughlin made 1-of-2 free throws, Scott powered his way in for a layup to make it a 72-67 game with 1:30 remaining. 

Amadou Sow, who was just 3-of-11 from the field for UCSB, made a layup to make it 72-69 with 1:13 to play. After the basket by Sow, LMU's Keli Leaupepe was called for a technical foul. McLaughlin made the free throw and lead was down to 72-70. 

Quintana responded again with another three-pointer to stretch the lead to 75-70. Following a Gaucho turnover, Scott was fouled and made 1-of-2 from the line to make it a 76-70 game at the 00:39 mark. Another three by McLaughlin halved the lead with 00:33 to play, but Scott and Douglas each made a pair of free throws to make the score 80-73 with 11 ticks left on the clock. McLaughlin hit one more three for UCSB and Alipiev made a free throw for the Lions, to result in the 81-76 final. 

The Gauchos never led in the first half and fell behind 31-20 on a three-pointer by Jalin Anderson at the 6:09 mark. A three-pointer by Sow, his first of the year, cut the advantage to 31-23, but layup by Alipiev with 5:15 to play pushed the lead back to double-figures, 33-23. 

UCSB responded with a 10-0 run over the next 1:30 to tie the score at 33. After a pair of free throws by Sow, Sanni and Destin Barnes each drained three-pointers to make it a two-point game. A jump hook in the middle of the lane by Idehen equalized the game with 3:42 on the clock. LMU responded with four straight points and ultimately took a 42-38 lead into the locker room at halftime. 

McLaughlin and Sanni combined for 27 of Santa Barbara's 38 points in the second half. Norris and Sow each had a team-high six rebounds, while McLaughlin added a team-high four assists and Norris had a team-high three steals. 

UCSB equaled its season-high with 11 three-point baskets, going 11-of-24, 45.8%. Overall, it made 25-of-52 shots, 48.1%. The Lions also made 11 threes, going 11-of-23, 47.8%. In the first meeting between the teams, they made just 1-of-14 three-point attempts. Overall, they hit 52.8% for the game after shooting just 30.5% in the first game. 

The Gauchos return to action after final exams this week. They will travel to Pepperdine for another game against a West Coast Conference on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 3:00 p.m.