UCSB’s defense threw up another stop sign on Friday in what is becoming a month-long road trip in men’s basketball.
The Gauchos got UC Davis to miss its first 12 shots and led from the opening tip to post their seventh-straight victory, 72-51.
“In the first half, our guys really, really defended at an incredible level,” coach Joe Pasternack said. “We had an unbelievable energy and intensity about us.”
UCSB (11-3, 5-2 Big West Conference) out-shot the Aggies (3-4, 0-1) 58.8% to 31% and outrebounded them 36-30.
The Gauchos have won their last three road games by a margin of 27.3 points. UCSB won’t play its next home game until Feb. 19-20 since Long Beach State, next week’s scheduled opponent, was put on a two-week pause for receiving a positive COVID-19 test on Friday.
Neither UCSB nor Davis could find the range during the first five minutes. Although Miles Norris rattled in a three-pointer to start the game, the Gauchos missed their next five attempts from the field and first two free throws.
The Aggies didn’t get their first points until Damion Squire made two free throws with 13:07 left in the first half. They didn’t score their first basket until the 11:37 mark.
An alley-oop dunk by Josh Pierre-Louis on Ajare Sanni’s lob gave UCSB a 7-0 lead. The margin increased to double-digits, 15-4, on back-to-back threes by Devearl Ramsey.
B.J. Shaw, the son of UCSB Hall of Famer Brian Shaw, got the Aggies to within 15-9 by hooking in a basket. He responded to his first start of the season with seven points and a game-high nine rebounds, while Squire led all scorers with 14 points.
But threes by Sanni and JaQuori McLaughlin fueled a 13-0 run for the Gauchos. Pierre-Louis’ fast-break basket got their lead up to 28-9.
McLaughlin finished the first half with a flourish, banking in a runner and then assisting Ramsey’s layup for a 36-16 lead. The two senior guards scored 11 points apiece, as did Sanni. Norris and Amadou Sow each added 10 points.
Ramsey, who entered the game ranked third nationally with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.0, finished with four assists and no turnovers. McLaughlin led all players with five assists.
“Not only is Devearl not turning the ball over, his number of assists are skyrocketing,” Pasternack said. “It’s what a point guard does — make everybody else better, hit open shots and lead his team to victory.
“More importantly, Devearl Ramsey has become the head of our team defense. He’s leading us in a way that doesn’t show up in the box score, with his effort pressuring their guards. Ezra Manjon is an all-league guy and the job Devearl did on him was through the roof.”
Manjon, who entered the game with a 17.8-point average, was held to five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
Sow, who made 5-of-6 shots, just missed his fifth-straight double-double with a team-high eight rebounds.
UCSB held Davis to 18.8% shooting (6-for-32) overall and 14.3% from the three-point line during the first half.
Three straight Gaucho turnovers opened the door to an 8-0 run for the Aggies early in the second half, giving them hope at 45-33.
“We really let our guard down,” Pasternack said. “We lost the first three of what we call four-minute wars in the second half.
“Thirteen turnovers are as many as we’ve had all year, and it fueled their fast break and kept them in the game.”
But a hook shot by Sow and five straight points by Norris, which he punctuated with a tomahawk dunk, got UCSB’s margin up to 52-37.
Sow converted back-to-back post moves and Destin Barnes scored off Ramsey’s pass to increase the lead to 64-43.
“We got the ball to Amadou when they went on their run,” Pasternack said. “Our guys executed pretty well from that standpoint.”
The two teams will start over at 0-0 today at 4 p.m. when they play the second game of their double-header.
“The one word we’re using for this entire season is ‘attitude,’” Pasternack said. “The mental to the physical is four-to-one, and the toughest team mentally is the one that’s going to win.
“That couldn’t be any more true for tomorrow night. We have to have the right attitude going into tomorrow’s game.”