After three overwhelming road wins in a row, the UCSB men’s basketball team needed overtime to notch a fourth.
The Gauchos earned the extra period on a pair of clutch free throws by little-used Jay Nagle and then stole the victory, 89-86, with two big thefts in overtime.
“What a gutsy win for our guys,” coach Joe Pasternack said. “I’m really happy for them.
“We needed to win a game like this, a game that’s really close. We learned how to win on the road when we’re down with just seconds to go.”
UCSB (12-3, 6-2 Big West Conference) notched its eighth-straight victory by hounding the Aggies into missing all eight of their field-goal attempts during the five-minute overtime.
Nagle had played only two minutes on Saturday when he stepped to the foul line with three seconds left in regulation. He had been summoned to help fill in for starter Miles Norris, who had been ejected 10 minutes earlier with his second technical foul.
“I put him in a very, very tough situation tonight,” Pasternack said. “I threw him into the game and he got an unbelievable offensive rebound — if he didn’t get that, we would’ve lost. He gets fouled on that and, cold off the bench, makes two pressure free throws.
“He comes from two extraordinary parents … They raised this young man so well, and he comes to practice every day and honors the process every single day even though he’s barely played this year.”
UCSB, which trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, needed Ajare Sanni to score 11 of his team-high 22 points during the final 8 ½ minutes of regulation to survive until overtime. He made 4-of-8 three-pointers, three of which came during a late, four-minute stretch of the game.
Davis (3-5, 0-2) presented a tougher challenge than on Friday when UCSB cruised to its fifth-straight rout of 14 points or more, 72-51. Although the Gauchos out-shot Davis, 49% to 44.3%, the Aggies beat them to the rebounds, 36-31, and to nearly every loose ball.
“When I walked into the locker room (after the game), I told those guys I was awfully proud to be an Aggie tonight,” Davis coach Jim Les said. “This was not the result they deserved, or we wanted … before this is all said and done, this can be a really good basketball team.
“Our transformation from Friday to Saturday gave us a glimpse of what that looks like and I’m really excited about that.”
The score was tied 12 times and the game featured seven lead changes.
The Gauchos were sluggish at the start, missing five of their first six shots and committing four turnovers. They fell behind 15-5 after just over five minutes. They trailed 22-14 just inside the 10-minute mark.
But in the next 90 seconds, three-pointers by JaQuori McLaughlin and Destin Barnes keyed a 10-0 run that gave them their first lead, 24-22. McLaughlin finished with 18 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Sanni, who missed his first five shots, made two-of-three in the final two minutes of the first half to draw the Gauchos even by halftime. His floater tied the score at 36-all.
UCSB held Davis to just 40.7% shooting in the first 20 minutes. Both teams, however, broke loose in the second half when the Aggies out-shot the Gauchos 61.5% to 57.1%.
McLaughlin scored nine of his 18 points in the first six-plus minutes of the period to give the Gauchos a 55-48 lead.
Norris made back-to-back threes to keep UCSB ahead 61-55 with 10:51 to go. He was having one of his best games as a Gaucho, with 17 points in as many minutes of action. But with 10:11 to go, he was called for his second double-technical foul after getting into his second verbal exchange with an Aggie. The penalty included an automatic ejection.
Two minutes later, point guard Devearl Ramsey joined him on the bench with his fourth foul.
With UCSB’s 6-foot-10 rim protector and its best on-ball defender both out of the game, the Aggies began driving on the Gauchos at will. All-league guard Ezra Manjon, who had scored only four points to that point, poured in nine during a two-and-a-half minute outburst that tied the game at 68-all.
Manjon finished with 19 points while teammate Elijah Pepper led all scorers with 23.
Sanni put the Gauchos back ahead, 78-76, with back-to-back threes and a reverse layup off a baseline runner. But Manjon scored off a spin move and threw up a wild three that beat the shot clock to nudge Davis ahead, 83-80 with 46 seconds left in regulation.
Barnes made one-of-two foul shots to get UCSB within two with 0:19 on the clock. The Gauchos fouled Kennedy Koehler three seconds later and he missed both free throws to keep UCSB’s hopes alive.
McLaughlin was forced to throw up a long shot under pressure, but Nagle saw that it was short of the rim and caught it on the run. He was fouled while trying to reverse in a shot with :03 remaining and made both free throws to send the game into overtime.
UCSB’s defense finally found its footing during the extra period, forcing Davis to miss all eight of its field-goal attempts. Sanni scored after a steal, and another theft by Ramsey led to McLaughlin’s fast-break runner and an 87-83 lead.
“We haven’t had an overtime game this year, it was good for us to understand the urgency you have to play at the defensive end,” Pasternack said.
The Aggies did make three-straight free throws to draw within a point with 24 seconds to go, but Manjon missed the fourth. Amadou Sow, who got eight of his game-high nine rebounds after halftime, grabbed the miss and was fouled. The 6-foot-9 junior, who made two clutch free throws with 1:55 left in regulation, hit two more with 15 seconds left in overtime to give UCSB an 89-86 lead.
“Amadou closed the game very well for us,” Pasternack said. “His overtime was terrific. He had some big rebounds, and those four free throws were huge for us.”
Manjon and Pepper then both missed well-guarded threes in the final seconds as UCSB pulled out the win.