UCSB’s Sow proves his teammates right with big night in win
UCSB’s soothsayers had some soothing words for Amadou Sow after his worst game as a Gaucho earlier this week.
“They told me that I’m going to have a great game the next game,” the freshman center said, “so I’ve just got to keep going.”
Sow made his teammates prophetic, matching his career-high with 22 points while grabbing nine rebounds in a 72-64 basketball victory over UC Riverside at the Thunderdome Saturday night.
He got just four points on 2-for-9 shooting and only one rebound in Wednesday’s nine-point win over Cal Poly.
“We told him that he can’t dwell on that game – that anybody can have a bad game from time to time,” graduate transfer Ar’Mond Davis said. “We told him that we were going to need him in this next game.”
The Gauchos (13-3, 2-0 Big West Conference) needed everybody to fend off the pesky Highlanders (6-12, 0-2) who lived up to their dead-eye reputation by making 9-of-21 three-pointers.
Devearl Ramsey scored 20 points with a near-perfect shooting night, making 6-of-8 field goals, 2-of-3 three-pointers, and all six of his free throws. He was at his best down the stretch while scoring 16 of his points in the second half.
“At the end of games, I’ve got to pick my energy up, whether that’s defensively or offensively,” the sophomore point guard said.
JaQuori McLaughlin added 12 points and a game-high five assists, while Davis also scored 12 while making 2-of-3 from three.
UCSB didn’t waste time going to Sow, with the 6-foot-9 rookie scoring three of his team’s first four baskets.
“I just wanted to go into him and get him going,” Gaucho coach Joe Pasternack said. “He did an amazing job in the first four minutes of the game. He really attacked.”
Davis hit a three-pointer off McLaughlin’s pass to give the Gauchos an 11-6 lead after five-plus minutes.
But the Gauchos struggled to hit shots, inside or out, for the rest of the half, making just 7-for-22 from the floor and 0-for-4 from three.
Ami Lakoju did battle to put back a pair of his teammates’ misses, and he also fed Sow for a tomahawk dunk.
Ramsey then collected an errant pass from Riverside’s Dikymbe Martin which glanced off the referee and took it in for a layup and a 23-16 lead.
Martin was more accurate with his shooting, scoring the game’s next seven points which included a game-tying three with 6:35 left in the half. He finished with 16 points, although UCSB’s defense dug in to hold him to 1-for-6 shooting in the final 171/2 minutes
“JaQuori and Devearl did an excellent job on him,” Pasternack said. “Amadou was really terrific tonight in defending the ball screens, too, because they run up their five-man … I thought he did a great job on that to help defend him.”
The Highlanders took their first lead at 29-27 on a reverse layup by 7-footer Menno Dijkstra off a pass from Ajani Kennedy, and they led 34-32 at halftime. Kennedy led Riverside with 19 points and five rebounds.
Ramsey got the Gauchos off to a good start in the second half, however, scoring seven points in the first three-plus minutes. His three from the top off an inside-out pass from Max Heidegger put them ahead 44-39.
Although Heidegger has taken only five shots since returning from a leg injury on Wednesday, he had four assists on Saturday and now has 17 with just three turnovers in his five games this season.
Kennedy made a three and a dunk to rev up the Highlanders with a 50-48 lead, but Davis responded with a three and runner of his own.
“They got a dunk and their bench was getting into it, so I just wanted to do something to calm them down and let them know that we were still in control of the game,” Davis said.
Riverside kept throwing haymakers, making five threes in the first 101/2 minutes of the second half. Dragan Elkaz’s bomb gave the Highlanders their last lead at 56-53 with 9:24 to go.
But Ramsey answered with a game-tying three from the corner off another pass from the low post – this time from Jarriesse Blackmon.
“We try to go inside-out,” Ramsey said. “That makes the game easier.”
Sow then rebounded a miss by Martin and fed Ramsey for a fast break layup which he converted after a twisting and turning journey through several defenders. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw to put UCSB into the lead for good at 59-56.
“I play the game fast,” Ramsey said. “Sometimes that’s a detriment to myself, but I just go with it. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life … Sometimes you’ve got to go with the feel, and that’s what I felt.”
Although a hook shot by Dijkstra got Riverside within a point, McLaughlin scored back-to-back runners – converting a three-point play on his second drive – to trigger an 11-2 run for UCSB.
The Gauchos scrapped for loose balls which they immediately converted into baskets on consecutive possessions during the spree.
“Coach always talks about the 50-50 balls,” Ramsey said. “The team that gets those is the one that’s playing the hardest, and once you get those, the defense is all out of line and there are a lot of scoring options.”
The first of three straight baskets by Sow came after Heidegger scrambled for the second loose ball. By the time Sow dunked off a press-breaking lob by Davis, the Gauchos had taken their biggest lead of 10 points, 70-60, with only 1:51 to go.
UCSB wound up holding Riverside to 39.3 percent shooting in the second half after allowing 50 percent in the first 20 minutes. The Gauchos out-shot them in the game, 49.1 percent to 44.8
“We knew we had to have a better defensive effort in the second half because they were in a groove,” Ramsey said. “But once we defend and rebound, we know we can beat anyone.”