ARLINGTON, Tex. — A timeout in the hot seat was enough to ignite a hot hand from Amadou Sow on Saturday.
The sophomore forward scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half to lift UCSB to its fifth-straight basketball victory, 72-68, at the University of Texas Arlington.
“Coach got on him a little bit, and I think that woke him up,” said JaQuori McLaughlin, who contributed 22 points to the victory. “He played with a little bit more anger.”
Sow, who also got all six of his rebounds in the second half, made 8-of-10 shots in the game which included 3-for-3 from the three-point line.
“In the first half, I know I wasn’t aggressive with the rebounds, and I wasn’t aggressive attacking the rim,” he said. “I just let the game come to me in the second half.”
Coach Joe Pasternack’s halftime ire had nothing to do with Sow’s two-point total through the first 20 minutes. UTA’s trapping defense had limited him to just one shot.
“I didn’t give him a Knute Rockne speech,” Pasternack said. “What I did was sit him down because he wasn’t defending, and he doesn’t like to sit down on the bench.
“I sat him down and told him he wasn’t trying on defense, and then he did a great job.”
Defense continued to be the common denominator in the Gauchos’ winning streak. The Mavericks (4-6), whose difficult schedule has included Tulsa’s only loss of the season and a near-upset at No. 8 Gonzaga, shot just 41.4% overall and 30.4% from the three-point line.
UCSB (6-3) also made eight steals, which included three by McLaughlin and two apiece by Sow and Devearl Ramsey.
“Our guys really bought into defending,” Pasternack said. “They understand that for us to win, we have to defend. We’re not out-scoring people.
“Moving forward, each game, that’s what it’ll be about.”
UCSB, which shot only 41.5%, did make three of its first five attempts. McLaughlin hit two of them and Matt Freeman added a three-pointer for a 7-2 lead.
McLaughlin and Freeman scored all but two of the Gauchos’ points by the 12-minute mark. Freeman’s tip-in got their lead up to 14-8.
But UTA answered with threes from Brian Warren and Jordan Phillips to take a 17-16 lead.
The Gauchos needed McLaughlin to beat the shot clock with a long three and Brandon Cyrus to hit another to see-saw back on top, 23-21.
“Definitely from the games we’ve lost, we’ve got a fire inside of us,” McLaughlin said.
Sow finally got involved by assisting Sékou Touré’s layup and banking in a runner for his only points of the first half, keeping UCSB ahead 27-26.
McLaughlin’s two foul shots got the Gauchos even at the break, 29-all.
David Azore’s runner gave UTA the lead to start the second half, but the Gauchos responded with a 15-3 run. Sow, who was crowded out of the paint by the Mavericks’ trap, made them pay with back-to-back threes.
“I worked a lot on shooting the three during the summer,” he said. “Every time I’m open, my teammates tell me to shoot it. The coaching staff believes in me.
“I’ve just got to believe in myself and keep making those big plays.”
Touré scored a put-back and a runner in back-to-back possessions to get UCSB’s lead into double-digits, 46-36, with 14:42 to go. Touré finished with six rebounds.
UTA got consecutive threes by Sam Griffin and Rashad Davis to get within 50-48. But Sow made his third three and scored off a drive to stall the Mavericks’ rally.
Ramsey, who missed his first six shots which included five threes, finally made one from distance to get the Gauchos’ margin back to 58-51. He also sank two clutch free throws with only 24.4 seconds left and held Warren, the Mavericks’ All-Sun Belt Conference guard, to just seven points and two assists.
“Your starting point guard plays 36 minutes, goes 1-of-10 from the field — gets six assists but with seven turnovers — and you win the game?” Pasternack observed. “That’s hard to do, especially being down a man (injured guard Max Heidegger).
“But he kept defending and playing hard. What a tribute to him. He’s a great kid.”
Griffin did tie the game one last time, 59-59, by scoring UTA’s next seven points.
Sow one-upped him by scoring UCSB’s next eight. His three-point play off McLaughlin’s pass into the lane gave the Gauchos a 62-59 lead. He scored again off a feed from Freeman to make it 64-61 with 1:59 to go.
“We wanted to get him the ball after some ball movement, and we adjusted where we got it to him,” Pasternack pointed out. “They were trapping him low in the post and so we got him the ball more in the mid-post so he could see the trap coming.
“Amadou has grown up a lot offensively. Last year, he would’ve really struggled with the trap.”
Azore’s scoring drive drew the Mavericks to within 64-63 with 62 seconds remaining, but Sow tipped in a teammate’s miss 21 seconds later.
It became a free-throw shooting contest after that, with Ramsey, McLaughlin, and Freeman all swishing two apiece in the final 25 seconds.
“To win on the road in college basketball is very hard,” Pasternack said. “This team is really growing up in front of us.”