Gauchos Bend, But Don't Break in 75-63 Road Win at Pepperdine

JaQuori McLaughlin (Photo by David Chisholm)
JaQuori McLaughlin (Photo by David Chisholm)

MALIBU, Calif. – JaQuori McLaughlin scored 23 points, Ajare Sanni and Devearl Ramsey added 16 and 15 respectively as UC Santa Barbara responded to every challenge in wire-to-wire win at Pepperdine on Saturday.

On the strength of three-pointers by McLaughlin, Sanni and Ramsey, the Gauchos (4-1) jumped out to an early 11-2 lead and then held off several rallies by the Waves (4-4) to finish the non-conference portion of their schedule. 

UCSB led 19-12 on a jumper by McLaughlin with 10:21 to play in the first half, but went 4:47 without a point, allowing Pepperdine to creep within 19-18. The visitors finished the half on a 12-5 run and then opened the second half by scoring six straight, including four by Amadou Sow, to stretch the lead to 37-23 with 17:48 remaining. 

But the Waves kept fighting back and when Kendall Munson hit a jump hook in the paint and a free throw to complete an 11-1 run, the lead was down to 38-34 at the 14:34 mark. Sanni responded with his fourth of five three-point baskets, pushing the lead back to 41-34. 

The Gaucho lead continued to hover between four and seven until Colbey Ross, who led the Waves with 20 points, made 1-of-2 free throws with 10:18 remaining to close the gap to 44-41. Then, it was Ramsey's turn to respond as he calmly made a long three-pointer of his own to make it 47-41 with just over 10 minutes to play. 

Another UCSB guard, sophomore Josh Pierre-Louis, made his big play on the defensive end as he jumped a lane and stole a pass from Sedrick Altman. Pierre-Louis got the ball to a sprinting McLaughlin who made both free throws after being fouled by Pepperdine's Robbie Heath, making it a 49-41 game with 9:41 left. 

A Ross three made it a 5-point game, but a driving layup by McLaughlin and another three from long distance by Ramsey pushed the lead back to double-figures, 54-44, with 8:39 to play in the game. 

As they did several times during the game, the Waves fought back with quick 7-0 run. Munson scored on a layup after a steal, Ross drained a three-pointer from way above the top of the circle, and Heath made a pair of free throws shave the advantage to 54-51 with 7:36 on the clock. 

The teams traded baskets and free throws for the next few possessions and when Munson made a pair of free throws with 4:46 left, the lead was down to 58-56 with 4:46 left.

On the other end, McLaughlin was fouled, but missed the front end of the 1-and-1. Pepperdine rebounded and drove up the court in search of its first tie since the game was scoreless, but Pierre-Louis had other ideas as he stole a pass from Ross and swooped in for an acrobatic layup, extending the lead to 60-56 and igniting a 6-0 UCSB run that was complete when Pierre-Louis rebounded a missed three-point attempt by Jadé Smith, broke out the pack, got the ball to McLaughlin who hit another layup, making it a 64-56 game with 3:06 remaining. 

After Munson Heath made two more free throws for the Waves, Miles Norris drained a short jumper in the lane to get the lead back to eight, 66-58. A layup by Munson made the score 66-60, but once again a three-pointer by Sanni snuffed Pepperdine's hopes as the lead ballooned to 69-60 with 1:44 remaining.

The Waves were forced to foul in the final minutes and the Gauchos were up to the task, making their final eight free throws in a row, including a pair by McLaughlin with 24 seconds left to give his team its final 75-63 advantage. 

In addition to a season-high 23 points, McLaughlin had a season eight assists, tying his career-high. Sanni finished with a season-high five three-point baskets, going 5-for-8. He also had a pair of steals. Ramsey went 3-for-6 from three-point range. Combined the trio of UCSB guards scored 54 points on 16-of-28 overall, 9-for-17 from three-point range and 13-for-15 from the free throw line. 

Sow finished one-point shy of a double-double for UCSB as he had nine points and 12 rebounds. 

The Gauchos shot 45.5% overall for the game and 9-of-23 from three-point range, 39.1%. Pepperdine hit 38.6% of its field goals, but went just 3-of-18 from beyond the three-point stripe, 16.7%. Munson added 16 points to go along with the team-high 20 from Ross. Ross added six assists.

Santa Barbara will be off until it opens Big West Conference play on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 at defending league champion UC Irvine. The times of those games will be announced soon.