IRVINE, Calif. – Ice cold UC Santa Barbara fell behind by 13 points early in its Big West Conference opener at UC Irvine on Sunday and could never catch up, falling 75-56.
From the word go, UCSB (4-2 overall, 0-1 in Big West) struggled with its shooting, missing three-pointers, layups and even a pair of slam dunk attempts. They finished with a season-low 32.1% from the field, hitting just 18-of-56 shots. The struggles were even worse from three-point range as the Gauchos made just 3-of-25 attempts, 12.0%.
On the other hand, the Anteaters (4-4, 1-0) shot a solid 53.4% overall and 3-of-7 from three-point ragne. They dominated inside with a 46-22 scoring advantage inside the key.
After an ugly start that saw them fall behind 19-6 with just over 12 minutes to play in the first half, the Gauchos methodically clawed their way back. They had the deficit down to 30-26 on a steal and layup by Josh Pierre-Louis with 3:42 to play but missed four straight shots when they had the opportunity to cut the gap below four and settled for a 36-28 halftime deficit.
Amadou Sow's first field goal of the game to open the second half cut the advantage to 36-30, but the Anteaters went on a 23-11 run over the next 10 minutes to push the lead to 59-41 on a jumper by Collin Welp with 9:11 left in the game.
The Gauchos pulled to within 14 several times down the stretch, but could get no closer as they continued to miss shots, inside and outside. UCI stretched the lead to 20 points before settling for the 19-point win.
Ajare Sanni was a bright spot for UCSB finishing with a game-high 15 points on 6-of-14 from the field. JaQuori McLaughlin added nine points while Amadou Sow had seven points and eight rebounds while attempting just five shots.
Irvine was paced by Brad Greene with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Welp added 11 points and eight boards.
In addition to their advantage shooting the ball, the Anteaters dominated the glass and won the rebound battle 39-29. They did commit 14 turnovers and UCSB outscored them on points off of turnovers, 16-9.
The teams will meet again on Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at the Bren Events Center in Irvine. The game will be carried on ESPN3. The Gauchos are scheduled to play their first home games of the league schedule on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 1-2 when they host Cal State Fullerton at the Thunderdome. Both of those games will also be aired on ESPN3.