UCSB's Rally Leads to 65-61 Win Over Cal State Fullerton

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

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara missed its first 12 three-point attempts on Saturday evening, but Devearl Ramsey made the one that mattered most to help the Gauchos rally back from a 14-point deficit in the second half, stunning Cal State Fullerton, 65-61. 

UCSB (6-3 overall, 2-2 Big West) and the Titans (1-2, 0-2) slogged through a brutal first half that saw several lead changes and a lot of unattractive play, but in the end the Gauchos battled back.

"I'm just proud of our guys," Head Coach Joe Pasternack said. "We got down 12, 14 points, and in conference, anybody can beat anybody. We talk about kills —getting three stops in a row is a kill —and we got the most this year with eight. When we get stops, and kills, that gets our offense ignited, and that's what brought us back tonight."
 
Fullerton took a 32-27 lead after the ugly first half. The Titans led despite making just 35.0% of their shots and committing 14 turnovers. Why? They were 5-for-7 from three-point range and 13-for-13 from the free throw line while the Gauchos were 0-for-10 from outside the arc and shot just 32.4% overall. UCSB led by as many as seven in the first half but missed eight of its last nine shots, including its final four to see the lead evaporate. 

Dante Maddox, scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the first 20 minutes, making all three of his three-point attempts and all four of his free throws. 

In the early going of the second half it looked eerily similar to the first as the Gauchos missed their first five shots, including two three-pointers, and saw Fullerton outscore them 9-0 to take a 41-27 lead.

JaQuori McLaughlin finally broke both spells when he made a three-point basket at the 15:01 mark to cut the 41-27 lead to 41-30.  

Trailing 44-31, UCSB went on a 12-0 run that began when Sekou Toure hit a pair of free throws with 14:03 left. A pair of layups by Destin Barnes, one by Robinson Idehen, and another by Toure at the 11:33 and it was suddenly a 44-41 game.  A pair of free throws by McLaughlin with 10:33 to play made it 44-43. 

After a series of scoreless possessions Jalen Harris hit a lay-up for Fullerton to push the lead back to 46-43, but Devearl Ramsey respond with a three from the corner with 8:42 to play, tying the score at 46. For Ramsey, it was his first three-pointer after missing six straight.

"He's a really, really good three-point shooter, but he was in a slump, like all players get into it," Pasternack saidn about Ramsey. "It took a lot of courage to hit those two shots. Those were huge, huge threes for us to come back."

The Titan's response was swift as Josh Hall drained a three of his own from the left corner, making it a 49-46 game at the 8:08 mark. They pushed their lead back to 54-49 when Tray Maddox made two free throws with 6:20 left, but three free throws and a nifty layup by McLaughlin gave Santa Barbara a 5-0 run and tied the score at 54 with 4:22 remaining. 

A Dante Maddox three-pointer as the shock clock was running down made it 59-56 Titans with 3:28 to play. An empty possession by each team preceded a slam dunk by Miles Norris off of a perfect feed from McLaughlin made it 59-58 with 2:19 on the clock. After a miss by Josh Hall on the other end, McLaughlin hit two more free throws to give UCSB its first lead of the second half, 60-59 at the 1:44 mark. 

Vincent Lee missed a short jumper with 1:18 left and Norris swooped in for the rebound, got the ball to McLaughlin maneuvered up the court. He then looked both ways, but fed Ramsey, who had struggled from three-point territory, but Ramsey calmly drained the triple, pushing the lead to 63-59 with 54.6 remaining.

A layup by Lee with 39.3 to play and a missed jumper by McLaughlin with 11 seconds remaining set the stage for the final tense moments when Dante Maddox missed a long three-point attempt and Ramsey wound up with the rebound. He was intentionally fouled and, after a review of the clock, made a pair of free throws for the final 65-61 margin.

McLaughlin was outstanding. He finished the game with 19 points to go along with career-highs of 10 assists and five steals. He also had three rebounds and just one turnover. Ramsey had eight points, two assists and four steals. As a team, the Gauchos finished with 14 steals, their most since they had 17 on Nov. 12, 2010 against Denver. 

As a team, Fullerton finished at a perfect 19-for-19 from the free throw line. The Titans also hit 8-for-14 from three-point territory, 57.1%, but overall, they made just 37.8%. They hit a mere 9-for-31 shots from inside the three-point arc, 29.0%. Dante Maddox finished with 19 points and Tray Maddox had 12.

UCSB has a bye next weekend and will return to action when it hosts new Big West Conference member UC San Diego on Friday-Saturday, Jan. 15-16. Both games will tip-off at 5:00 p.m. in The Thunderdome and will be carried on ESPN3.