SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara used a balanced attack and blew open a close game with a 13-2 second half run, cruising to a 81-63 Big West Conference win over visiting Cal State Fullerton on Friday.
The Gauchos (5-3 overall, 1-2 in Big West) led the Titans (1-1, 0-1) 38-33 before the 13-2 surge gave them a 51-35 lead with 10:29 to play in the game. A fast break slam dunk by Miles Norris punctuated the run.
Ajare Sanni led the way for Santa Barbara with 19 points, including 13 in the second half. He shot 8-for-11 from the field and was a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range. He has made seven three-pointers in a row over the last two games. Norris and JaQuori McLaughlin each added 13 and Amadou Sow tallied 12. Sow was 6-for-8 from the field and did his damage despite being limited to 17:07 becaus of foul trouble. Robinson Idehen, who played just 12:14, added seven points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Fullerton, which was playing its first game since Dec. 13, was led by Tray Maddox, Jr., who scored a game-high 27 points, including his team's first 10.
After falling behind by 16 when the Gauchos put together their 13-2 run, the Titans never got closer than 11 the rest of the way. The lead was extended to 21 (72-61 with 4:18 to play) before things settled in for the 18-point win.
"Playing two games against the same team in less than 24 hours is tough," said UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack. "We had to manage the minutes that our guys played. JaQuori's minutes (McLaughlin) are obviously a focal point, so we played a lot of guys tonight. Sékou was great. He plays as hard and rebounds as hard as anyone in practice. It doesn't matter how much he plays, he practices hard and never complains and tonight he was big for us."
Sékou Touré finished with just four points, and he also contributed five rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals in the victory. He also gave his team energy.
Maddox scored Fullerton's first 10 points, with six coming on a pair of long distance three-point baskets.
Maddox scored on a layup with 7:49 to play in the first half to pull the Titans within 21-20, but UCSB closed the half on a 10-4 rally to take a 31-24 lead into halftime. Ajare Sanni started the run with back-to-back baskets, the second coming on a steal and coast-to-coast layup. Miles Norris ended the stretch with a slam dunk at the 0:15 mark.
Sow and Idehen each had two fouls with almost eight minutes to play in the first half, forcing the Gauchos to go with Jakov Kukic. Idehen would ultimately commit his third.
Toure was instrumental in the seven-point halftime lead, finishing with our points, five rebounds, two steals and an assist in the opening 20 minutes. Sow had eight points and four rebounds despite being limited to 8:40 with his two fouls.
As a team, the Gauchos shot 53.1% for the game, including a glistening 20-for-31 (64.5%) in the second half. In addition, led by Sanni's perfect performance, they made 5-of-9 from three-point range in the second half.
For his part, Sanni's 19-point total was his best as a UCSB player. He also had four rebounds and a career-high five assists. He and Norris combined for 24 points in the second half of the game.
UCSB had a season-high nine steals and, once more, had just 12 turnovers to go with 22 assists. Fullerton had 17 turnovers and a mere 10 assists.
In addition to Maddox's 27 points, Vincent Lee had 10. Josh Hall added nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
For Santa Barbara, Norris chipped in three blocked shots. McLaughlin had six assists and no turnovers.
UCSB and Cal State Fullerton will play the second game of their two-game series on Saturday, Jan. 2 at 5:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.