UCSB got the good start it sought from star forward Amadou Sow, but it also had plenty in reserve to finish off Cal State Fullerton in a 81-63 men’s basketball victory on Friday at the Thunderdome.
The All-Big West Conference forward emerged from a slump to make 6-of-8 shots for 12 points while the Gauchos’ bench added 35 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists to help them snap a two-game losing streak
“Our bench came in and really contributed,” said Sow, who also got six rebounds despite being restricted to 17 minutes by foul trouble. “Sékou (Touré), Ajare (Sanni) and Robinson (Idehen) — those three guys could start on any other team.
“They come in and work hard every day in practice, and when game time comes, they show they can handle it.”
UCSB (5-3, 1-2 Big West) and Fullerton (1-1, 0-1) will return to the Thunderdome tonight at 5 o’clock to play the second game of their league doubleheader. Spectators are not allowed because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Losing at Irvine last week was definitely our fault — we gave that last game away,” Sanni said. “But we got back after it, and we’ll be back again tomorrow.”
Sanni scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, making all three of his three-point attempts. He is 7-for-7 from three in his last two games and is averaging 14.5 points per game on 51.4% shooting from three-point range (19-for-37).
“We definitely did a better job of running our offense today,” Sanni said. “We have too many good people on our roster to not play that way. When we do that, it works.”
Of UCSB’s 34 baskets, 22 came with an assist. The Gauchos moved the ball well enough to out-shoot the Titans 53.1% to 47.3%. They also out-rebounded them 38-27.
JaQuori McLaughlin and Miles Norris contributed 13 points apiece. McLaughlin also had six assists with no turnovers — and he went right to Sow on UCSB’s first possession.
“My teammates kept going to me early,” Sow said. “We did some things on the offensive end for me just to get me to the basket.
“It was a good adjustment from the coaching staff, having me attack instead of just having my back to the basket.”
Tray Maddox Jr., a transfer from the University of Oakland, kept Fullerton in the game for a while. He hit a pair of three-pointers and a jumper to out-score UCSB all by himself, 8-6, during the first 3½ minutes. He finished with a game-high 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting which included five three-pointers.
“He’s a great player,” Gaucho coach Joe Pasternack said. “We’ll have to do a better job on him tomorrow. We have to be able to defend for 10 four-minute wars and not for stretches. That’s our biggest problem now.”
Maddox added a running bank shot three minutes later. A hook shot by Johnny Wang gave Fullerton its last lead of 14-13.
But Sow put the Gauchos back ahead by scoring off a spin move. He added a layup off McLaughlin’s lob just 25 seconds later. He had made just 9-of-35 shots in his previous four games.
“He had a little hop in his step and I thought he did a nice job,” Pasternack said. “He had some good energy.”
Sow also got his second foul barely a minute after scoring his fourth basket and had to sit for the final 7:35 of the first half. UCSB promptly missed its next four shots while Fullerton drew to within 21-20.
But Sanni put the Gauchos back on track, scoring off a runner and adding a layup off his own steal just 19 seconds later. He then assisted Touré’s layup with a driving assist for a 27-22 lead.
“What I was most proud of is that Ajare didn’t turn the ball over,” Pasternack said. “He had five assists to one turnover and four rebounds, and I thought he had a nice overall game.”
Touré, who had played only three minutes in the Gauchos’ previous five games, logged nearly 20 minutes on Friday with Josh Pierre-Louis nursing an injured foot. He responded with five rebounds and four points in the first half, and also finished with three assists.
“He doesn’t pout when he doesn’t play and he has unbelievable energy every single day,” Pasternack said. “We rewarded him and played him 20 minutes, and he got five rebounds. That, for us, is a gold standard — if a guard gets five rebounds, he gets to sign the bubble we put on the rim (for rebounding drills).
“I thought his energy was contagious.”
UCSB ended the first half on the emphatic note of Norris’ tomahawk dunk off McLaughlin’s pass to take a 31-24 lead into the locker room.
Devearl Ramsey gave the Gauchos their first double-digit lead. He scored a layup off Cyrus’ pass and set up Destin Barnes’ three with a skip pass on the next possession. He followed that up by going coast-to-coast for a layup and a 43-33 margin with 13:36 left.
Idehen’s three-point play off a put-back kicked off a 12-2 run in the next two-plus minutes. Four of his game-high nine rebounds came on the offensive end.
“To get nine rebounds in 12 minutes, that’s not easy to do,” Pasternack said. “He’s a lot like Sékou. Having those two guys coming off the bench with that type of energy was great for us.”