To the winners went the spoils of several of the Big West Conference’s top basketball awards on Monday.
Senior guard JaQuori McLaughlin was voted Player of the Year and Joe Pasternack was named Coach of the Year after leading UCSB to its first regular-season league championship since 2010.
“It’s very gratifying,” Pasternack said of winning the title after finishing second in his first three seasons at UCSB. “It’s been a very tough season for everybody to go through not only on the court but off the court, and the unpredictability of whether you’re going to play one week or another.
“Every single (COVID-19) test, I think every coach would agree, you’re just holding your breath to see if you can move forward the next day after all your guys and your staff get tested.”
The Gauchos are seeded No. 1 for this week’s Big West Tournament in Las Vegas and will play their quarterfinal game on Thursday at 11 a.m. against the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 8 Cal State Northridge and No. 9 Long Beach State.
McLaughlin was joined on the All-Big West first team by junior teammate Amadou Sow. Senior Devearl Ramsey and junior Miles Norris received honorable mention while sophomore Ajare Sanni was voted as the league’s Sixth Man of the Year.
In the women’s all-league voting, UCSB senior Doris Jones was picked to the second team while junior Taylor Mole received honorable mention.
McLaughlin is the seventh Gaucho to be voted Player of the Year. He follows in the footsteps of Brian Shaw (1988), Lucius Davis (1992), Branduinn Fullove (2003), Alex Harris (2008), Orlando Johnson (2010) and Alan Williams (2014).
He ranked in the Big West top 10 in six statistical categories: fourth in scoring (15.6 points per game) and free throw percentage (86.8%), second in assists (5.4 per game), sixth in steals (1.6 per game), third in assist-to-turnover ratio (plus-2.6) and eighth in minutes played (31.8 per game).
McLauglin ranks 28th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio and 34th in assists per game.
“JaQuori has had such an impact on our team,” Pasternack said. “He was the leading three-point shooter in Oregon State freshman history when he transferred to us, but he does it all.
“He makes the right decisions, the right passes. He’s made us such an unselfish team. When your best player is so unselfish, it’s really resonated throughout our entire team.”
McLaughlin also shot 48.3% overall and 40.5% from three-point range. His six 20-point games were the second-most by a Big West player this season.
He is only the third player in school history to surpass career milestones of 1,000 points and 300 assists even though he played his freshman year at Oregon State.
Pasternack has compiled a winning percentage of .720 — best in school history — during his four seasons as Gaucho coach. This year’s winning percentages of .836 overall (19-4) and .813 in league (13-3) rank as single-season records.
The Gauchos set school records this year with winning streaks of 13 overall, 11 in league play, and at 17 in home games.
“We lost our first two conference games to Irvine, and everybody said our season was over,” Pasternack said. “There was a lot of panic.
“It was Dec. 28. And from that point, we won 13 in a row. Attitude is the word we use. We have our one word, and that’s it. And I think our guys have done a great job of that.”
“I’m just so happy for them that these seniors can go out with a championship.”
Sow, who made the Watch List for the Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year Award, overcame hamstring and hip injuries to average 13.0 points on 56.9% shooting and 7.5 rebounds per game. He leads the Big West with five double-doubles.
“The first part of the year, he was really banged up,” Pasternack said. “He’s gotten much healthier as the season has gone on, and that’s been a big difference for him specifically.”
The 6-foot-9 junior, who made the All-Big West Second Team during his first two years at UCSB, is the first Gaucho since Alan Williams (2013-15) to earn all-league honors for three straight seasons.
Sanni, a 6-3 guard, came off the bench for 20 of his 21 games to average 11.5 points per game. He made 39 three-pointers with 41.1% accuracy.
Ramsey, a three-year starter at point guard, has averaged 7.7 points, 3.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.8 rebounds per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio of plus-3.78 (87 assists, 23 turnovers) ranks fifth nationally. He also spearheads UCSB’s man-to-man defense.
Norris, a 6-10 junior transfer, is averaging 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and a team-leading 1.0 blocked shots per game. He’s also shooting 39.4% from three-point range.
Jones will lead the UCSB women into their Big West Tournament opener on Wednesday at 5 p.m. The seventh-seeded Gauchos (7-13, 7-9 Big West) will play No. 2 UC Irvine (13-8, 11-4) at 5 p.m.
Jones, a 5-9 senior, averaged 14.4 points while shooting 39.5% from three and 6.3 rebounds.
“Doris is explosive,” coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “She’s explosive at the rim, she’s explosive in getting to the rim. She can score it at all three levels.
“She’s actually shot the three better than I had anticipated when she first arrived on campus, and that has grown. She has put in the time that it takes to improve there. And she’s grown to be better without the ball.”
Mole, a 6-2 Australian who transferred to UCSB from Colorado State, averaged 13.7 points while shooting 39.7% from three and led the Gauchos with 9.4 rebounds per game.