Gauchos race past UC San Diego, 84-53
UCSB has danced around the Saturday Night Fever of the coronavirus all basketball season. It has lost no games to the opponent named COVID-19.
But this weekend, it also dodged the Saturday Night Fizzle that comes with playing doubleheaders, executing its most complete game of the year to rout UC San Diego 84-53 and sweep their two-game series at the Thunderdome.
“Our guys did as well of a job in the second game of back-to-back games as we have all season,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “We did a great job of just being mentally locked in, and not worrying about the first game, because the first game means absolutely nothing to the second game.
“Every game has a life of its own.”
The Gauchos (8-3, 4-2 Big West Conference) had enough life in their legs to out-shoot the Tritons (2-3, 0-2) 54.8% to 35.8% and out-rebound them 42-25.
“We know the second game is going to be tougher,” senior guard JaQuori McLaughlin said. “We just wanted to be locked in, watch film, do our stuff right before the game and have everybody ready.”
McLaughlin’s complete game was on display: 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting, six assists and five rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Junior forward Amadou Sow led UCSB with his second-straight double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds in just 20 minutes.
“From a rebounding standpoint, that’s where we haven’t been very good, and the past two games we’ve dominated the boards,” Pasternack said. “Amadou has gotten two straight double-doubles, and in 20 minutes got 13 rebounds. That’s who he has to be.”
But this Saturday Night’s Fever was also a rapture of the deep. UCSB’s bench out-scored San Diego’s 41-28. All 12 Gauchos scored.
“We have a highly competitive environment with a lot of really good players, and practices are really competitive,” Pasternack said. “Everybody who got a chance to get in tonight did a great job.
“Destin Barnes came into the game and did a really nice job. Josh (Pierre-Louis) came in and did a really great job. Jay Nagle hadn’t played a lot and he hit two big threes for us. I’m proud of how our whole team responded.”
UCSB actually stumbled at the start, committing three turnovers in the first three minutes. McLaughlin helped his team get its footing, finding Sow on a flash to the basket for a layup. He added a basket of his own on an up-and-under move.
Devearl Ramsey added a three-pointer to the early seven-point run, putting the Gauchos ahead 9-6. They never trailed again.
They lobbed passes over San Diego’s zone defense for three alley-oop dunks in as many minutes. Robinson Idehen slammed home the first one. Miles Norris jammed the next two.
Norris added back-to-back threes, scoring all 10 of his points in a matter of less than four minutes to increase UCSB’s lead to 31-13.
Pasternack kept rotating players into the game to keep the defense fresh. The Gauchos hounded the Tritons into missing 13 of their last 15 shots of the first half. They shot just 25.9% in the first half.
“That’s the good thing about our team,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve got so many bodies that can come in and give guys a break, keep pressure up and the intensity going without anything dropping off.”
San Diego made just 2-of-14 three-pointers during the first half.
“It was our best half of the year defensively,” Pasternack said. “They do a great job — he’s a very good coach. They shoot the ball, and the three-point shot is a great equalizer, but I thought we did a really great job of challenging their threes.”
UCSB hit a pair of threes in the last minute of the first half alone. Nagle’s buzzer-beating bomb gave it a 42-18 lead. Ten Gauchos scored in the first half, leading to shooting percentages of 57.1% overall and 46.2% from three. UCSB also doubled-up San Diego in first-half rebounds, 22-11.
The Gauchos missed their first three shots of the second half but then made six of their next seven. Sow rebounded the lone miss for a put-back as the margin grew to 28 points with 15:37 still remaining.
UCSB drove a stake into the Tritons in the following minutes, surging to a 68-35 lead on scoring drives by Barnes, McLaughlin, Sanni, Sow, and two in a row by Pierre-Louis.
Pierre-Louis, who sat out the Cal State Fullerton double-header with a foot injury, made all six of his shots and scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
“Josh has been hurt and we made an effort to get him better,” Pasternack said. “He was hurt in the Irvine games and wasn’t himself. Sitting out a couple of weeks really helped get him back going.”
Pierre-Louis put a stamp on the rout with a rousing, driving dunk in the closing seconds. But Pasternack said the “mental to the physical was four to one” during Saturday’s romp.
“That’s a coach (Bobby) Knight phrase,” said the Gaucho coach, who served as a student manager for Knight at Indiana. “We really believe in that because this isn’t about physical right now.
“This was about what was going to be our mental approach to the game.”