Amadou Sow was lost in the crowd in the first half of Thursday night’s UCSB men’s basketball game against Hawai’i.
Foul trouble will do that.
In the second half, he stood out in the crowd with an offensive explosion that ranks among the very best in school history for a 20-minute span.
The Gauchos sophomore center finished with a career-high 30 points — 24 in the second half — to lead UCSB to a 76-66 victory over the Rainbow Warriors at the Thunderdome.
“I was just locked in in the second half,” Sow said. “I didn’t have a lot of minutes in the first half, I only played six minutes (because of foul trouble), but I just waited for my time to come.
“In the second half, I was able to turn it on. We were able to keep getting stops at the defensive end and then our guys were looking for me at the offensive end. Matt (Freeman), Jaquori (McLaughlin), Max (Heidegger), everyone was looking for me on the offensive end. I think that’s what got me going.”
Sow played only six minutes in the first half because he picked up his second foul. Prior to that, he was 3-for-3 from the field for six points.
He ended the night 12 of 13 from the field, which included two deep 3-pointers from straight away during the second half, when he was 9-for-10.
“We just talked about it as a team, we always talk about quick recoveries. Next play,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “He got two fouls, he only played six minutes and he had six points in the first half. For him to come back and get 30, it was the best half of his career. It just shows his unbelievable maturity and where he’s come from.
“He used to get upset and be down on himself. I’m so proud of him and how he played. He did a great job.”
The Rainbow Warriors (14-7, 5-2 Big West) played one defender on Sow to begin the second half.
It was a strategy that played right into his hands.
“I started feeling it the first three possessions of the second half,” Sow said. “They didn’t double-team me when I got high-low the first time. The second time they didn’t double-team and I got a dunk. After that, everything just started clicking for me from there on out.
“Obviously, I didn’t miss a lot of shots tonight. I was just feeling it the whole time. The next game it’s going to be somebody else on our team who’s going to step up. That’s the way we are as a team.”
Backup center Robinson Idehen had to step up in a hurry when Sow got into early foul trouble.
He did just that in the first half, helping UCSB to a 39-33 advantage at the break.
“We’re not up if Robinson doesn’t come in and get eight points and four rebounds in the first half,” Pasternack said. “To have him come off the bench is a huge luxury.”
Idehen finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists in helping the Gauchos (15-8, 4-4 Big West) to their second straight win after Saturday’s 25-point blowout victory at Long Beach State.
“I just want to play hard every time I’m out there,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m vocal to help the team and just bring that energy every time.”
Idehen, like the rest of the Thunderdome, was impressed with what Sow did in the second half.
“That was crazy, that was crazy,” Idehen said. “He was doing the same move over and over again, and they couldn’t stop him. I’m really proud of him.”
UCSB’s guards did an excellent job feeding the post all night. It was something Pasternack said was a focus for the team.
After leading by 12 twice in the first half, the Gauchos saw that lead disappear throughout the end of the first and midway through the second. The Rainbow Warriors buried three consecutive 3-pointers to take a 54-53 lead with 9:26 remaining. It was their only lead of the game, and it didn’t last very long.
Sow’s first 3-pointer of the second half at the 8:33 mark gave UCSB a 56-54 lead. The Gauchos would never trail again.
“Every team is going to have a run, and we just had to stay in control and stay together and make sure we finished strong,” Idehen said when asked about Hawai’i taking the lead. “It was a really big win for us.”
Next up for the Gauchos will be first-place UC Irvine on Saturday night at the Thunderdome at 7 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
“The guys are going to be excited,” Sow said. “Everybody is going to be excited for a nationally televised game. I’m going to be ready, for sure. Our whole team is going to be ready and we’re going to bring it.
“From our bench to our managers to our coaches and players, everybody is going to be locked in and ready to go.”