Amadou Sow finally got to speak this week to his ailing father in Africa.
He will have some good talking points for his next phone call … 23 of them, to be exact.
UCSB’s sophomore forward broke out of a two-game slump with a 23-point effort, backing JaQuori McLaughlin’s career-high 24, to rally the Gauchos to a 77-68 basketball victory over Southern University on Friday at the Thunderdome.
“He’s still in the hospital but he’s doing good,” Sow said. “The past couple of weeks I’ve been dealing with that, not being able to talk to him.
“But this week I was able to talk to him a lot more than I did the past week, so that helped.”
His father, Madani Sow, was hospitalized in Mali, Africa after coming down with a serious lung ailment.
The victory was the seventh in eight games for the Gauchos (8-4), who split last week’s games at Southern Utah and Idaho State. Sow, UCSB’s leading scorer on the season, netted just 13 points the entire week.
“What I’m really proud of is how he bounced back from this past week,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “He fouled out of both those games, but this game he had only two fouls, so he defended without fouling.
“I thought he played awfully hard on defense, dove on the floor for loose balls … He had a great practice yesterday and he had a great game today. It’s all about the honoring the process.”
Sow made 8-of-13 shots which included 1-for-2 from the three-point line. He also sank 6-of-8 free throws and led UCSB’s 31-29 edge in rebounding by grabbing six missed shots.
He also spoke up to McLaughlin during a break in the action to let him know that was getting open on the low post.
“Me and Amadou talk to each other like that,” McLaughlin said. “It’s not like we’re mad at each other or anything like that, we’re just intense in the game.
“Having a post presence like Amadou is great. We just have to get him the ball more, keep feeding him more, and that’s what we were doing — getting him buckets and having him get fouled.”
McLaughlin got six buckets of his own which included 3-of-5 shooting from three-point distance. He also went 9-for-12 from the free-throw line and assisted three of Sow’s baskets. Matt Freeman led UCSB in assists with five while Devearl Ramsey added four.
“Credit to my teammates, we were moving the ball pretty well, and they found me when I was open,” McLaughlin said. “I just knocked down some open shots, so credit that to them.”
Southern (3-10) knocked down its first five, with Ahsante Shivers’ three-pointer giving it an 11-1 lead after just three minutes.
“We didn’t execute our game plan from the get-go, that’s why they were able to pound us from the beginning,” Sow said.
McLaughlin scored UCSB’s first five points. Robinson Idehen dunked off Freeman’s high-post pass to reduce the Jaguars’ lead to 11-7.
The Gauchos followed that up with consecutive three-pointers by Ramsey, Freeman and Sow. They were 8-for-15 from three for the game (53.3%) while out-shooting the Jaguars overall (49% to 46.3%).
They finally caught the Jaguars at 24-all when Freeman fed Sow for a layup.
But Shivers was allowing no Southern comfort for the Gaucho. He scored six points in the final four minutes of the first half to spike a 10-2 run that put the Jaguars ahead 34-26 at the break. He finished with 22 points.
Southern out-shot the Gauchos 50% to 39.1% in the first half, outrebounded them 15-14, and beat them to nearly every loose ball.
“We’re having to dig ourselves out of holes every single game,” Pasternack said. “It caught up to us in Southern Utah, we were very fortunate against Idaho State, and we were fortunate tonight.
“This team has to be able to compete, and I have to get them to compete, defensively and in rebounding, for 40 minutes.
UCSB surged out of the halftime locker room with a 7-0 run. Sow capped it with a three-point play off a put-back, reducing Southern’s lead to 34-33.
“I think everybody was more locked in and ready to work,” Sow said.
McLaughlin’s driving leaner gave the Gauchos their first lead, 40-39, with 15 minutes to go.
Sow’s diving hustle play kept a loose ball alive and set Ramsey in motion for a fast-break feed of Brandon Cyrus’ layup. It keyed an 11-2 run which featured another breakout by Ramsey. He got the ball to Freeman who whisked it to McLaughlin in the corner for another three, giving UCSB a 53-46 lead with 9:54 left.
“It was a good pass, we were getting stops, and we were running, so they were getting kind of confused on defense,” McLaughlin said.
The Jaguars made one last charge, with Amel Kuljuhovic’s three capping a 9-2 run to tie the game at 55-all with 6:27 remaining.
But Ramsey, who had missed a wide-open bunny layup just three minutes earlier, leapt like a jackrabbit between a pair of defenders for a basket that triggered a 14-4 response by the Gauchos. He finished with 10 points.
“That’s just the kind of person that Devearl is,” McLaughlin said. “If he makes a mistake, he’s not going to hang his head. He’s going to keep going, and that’s what he did on that play, and he got a layup.”
The Gauchos then finished off the Jaguars with three-pointers from McLaughlin, Cyrus and Ramsey. They were followed by free-pointers from McLaughlin, Sow, and Freeman, with UCSB making all eight of its foul shots in the final 66 seconds.
“Coach always gets on us,” Sow said, “telling us that free throws win championships.”