Foul trouble forced 14 minutes of rest upon UCSB’s JaQuori McLaughlin in the first half of Saturday’s basketball game at Cal State Northridge … But the rest was history.
The senior guard scored 19 of his career-high 25 points in the second half to lead the Gauchos to their sixth-straight victory, 80-66, at the Matadome.
“He was terrific,” coach Joe Pasternack said. “He hit some really tough shots and put us on his back and carried us.”
McLaughlin’s night was nearly perfect. He made 10-of-11 shots — 7-of-7 in the second half, which included his only three-point attempt — and 4-of-4 free throws.
UCSB (10-3, 4-2 Big West Conference), which shot 60.9% in Friday’s 105-58 rout at CSUN, had another efficient night offensively. The Gauchos sank 54% of their attempts, which included 6-of-16 three-pointers, and they blunted the Matadors’ attempts at a comeback by making 20-of-23 free throws.
“I thought our guys were all about the mental tonight after what happened the first night,” Pasternack said. “I thought our guys really did a good job of locking in and concentrating.”
UCSB had to go to its bench to gain some early separation. Destin Barnes hit back-to-back three-pointers to turn a one-point lead to seven, 12-5, in the third minute of the game.
McLaughlin took a seat for more than 12 minutes after getting called for his second foul with 13:20 still left in the first half. Fellow point guard Devearl Ramsey joined him on the sidelines with his second foul just two minutes later.
But the Gauchos had even more ready in reserve, with Josh Pierre-Louis’ scoring drive touching off an 8-0 run for a 22-10 lead.
CSUN rallied with an 11-3 outburst of its own. A three-pointer by Lance Coleman II drew the Matadors to within 25-21. But another runner by Pierre-Louis put UCSB back on track.
Ajare Sanni, running the offense with McLaughlin and Ramsey on the bench, helped the Gauchos finish the half with a flourish and a 36-30 lead. He sank a late three-pointer from the top and, 38 seconds later, lobbed a pass which the recently re-entered McLaughin converted with an alley-oop dunk.
“We had different things thrown at us tonight, with JaQuori and Devearl getting two quick fouls,” Pasternack said. “But our ability to put Ajare at the one, and Josh and Sékou (Touré) and Brandon (Cyrus) all playing a lot of good minutes in the first half, kept us in the game.”
Sanni got all four of his assists in the first half and finished with 11 points,
McLaughlin was ready to go in the second half, sinking a three-pointer in the 22nd second and assisting Amadou Sow’s layup just a half-minute later.
Sow finished with 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting and matched his career-high in rebounds with 14. The four-straight double-doubles is his longest streak as a Gaucho.
“Everybody kind of panicked when he started off slow this year,” Pasternack said. “But Amadou is who he is — a great player. Putting up these kind of rebounding numbers is who he has to be.
“He’s getting healthier and healthier, and working hard with Jackson (Smidt, UCSB’s trainer), who’s doing an amazing job in getting him ready to play.”
The Matadors drew to within four points, 47-43, after getting a three by Darius Brown and two more by TJ Starks in less than two minutes. Starks, who scored 29 points in Friday’s game, added 24 more on Saturday.
“That’s a game we’re going to build on,” CSUN coach Mark Gottfried said. “We played hard, we competed, we got better defensively, and we got better offensively. We just came up a little bit short.
“They made some tough shots, you have to give them a lot of credit. When they needed to make a basket, they made it.”
McLaughlin lobbed a pass over the CSUN defense which Sow cashed in with a three-point play to extend UCSB’s lead to 50-43.
Sow added a hook shot and Miles Norris came alive with a running floater and a three-pointer off Ramsey’s driving, kick-out pass to get the margin back into double-digits, 57-47.
A late 11-2 run gave CSUN some hope, 69-63, with 3:15 to go. But Barnes found Sanni in the corner with a driving pass and the sophomore transfer from Pacific sank the three to trigger an 11-3 finish for the Gauchos.
“I was proud of our players for bouncing back from how we played yesterday,” Gottfried said. “They obviously played a lot harder and a lot better.”