LOS ANGELES — UCLA didn’t leave Sunday’s basketball game with UCSB to chance.
It left it to second chances.
The Bruins scored 20 points off their own misses —14 in the second half — while rallying for a 77-61 victory at Pauley Pavilion.
“Their size really bothered us,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said.
The Gauchos (1-1) led by as many as six points in the first half and took a 34-32 lead into halftime. But UCLA (2-0) took command by out-rebounding them 21-10 in the second half (40-26 in the game) and getting 18 offensive rebounds overall.
New coach Mick Cronin said he had to go Knute Rockne on his Bruins with Sunday’s halftime talk.
“We let Santa Barbara get comfortable, you should not let teams get into your gym and get comfortable,” he said. “We didn’t try and take anything away from them in the first half. That’s an effort thing.
“I challenged our guys to come with the effort that I’m accustomed to.”
UCLA center Jalen Hill got six offensive rebounds in the second half alone to finish with a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“Coach Cronin told me to just go get every board and that’s what happened,” he said.
UCLA’s comeback negated a 21-point, six-assist performance from UCSB senior Max Heidegger. Matt Freeman, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, added 12 points while making 3-of-6 shots from three-point range.
But the Gauchos’ underclassmen contributed little on the eve of Veterans Day. They were left wanting especially during the second half when they committed 10 of their 14 turnovers.
“I just think we had to be tougher in the second half,” Heidegger said. “If we play the way we know we can, we can win that game. We showed that in the first half.
“It’s just in the second half, they played tougher than us. Credit to them. They played harder. They got more rebounds. We’ve just got to do better.”
Neither team’s offense got much going during the opening minutes. They missed 16 of 17 shots between them, with Freeman getting the only make — a three during the second minute.
UCSB was 1-for-9 until Jay Nagle came off the bench to sink another three, and even that one rattled around the rim before dropping through to tie the score at 6-all.
The Gauchos actually wound up out-shooting the Bruins, 46 percent to 43.3.
Heidegger broke things loose by converting a runner. Devearl Ramsey’s steal led to a layup by Brandon Cyrus. Another three by Freeman put UCSB ahead 15-13.
“I have a lot of respect for Santa Barbara,” Cronin said. “They have a good coach and they know their system. They’ve got shot-makers. Heidegger’s a good player.
“I have a lot of respect for their team, their coach. I thought today was going to be a brutal day, so we were not surprised at all.”
UCLA jumped ahead 21-19 on a three by Prince Ali. Heidegger brought the Gauchos right back by engineering a 10-2 run, assisting baskets by Cyrus and Amadou Sow, and then hitting a long three from the top.
Another three by Nagle gave UCSB its biggest lead, 29-23, with 3:57 to go in the first half.
Sow’s three-point play off Heidegger’s inbounds pass helped keep the Gauchos ahead at halftime, 34-32.
But Sow rarely touched the ball on offense. UCSB’s All-Big West Conference forward got just six shots, making three.
“Their size really hurt us in going into Amadou,” Pasternack said. “They were trapping him, so we struggled.”
The Bruins scored twice off Gaucho turnovers during the first 40 seconds of the second half and never trailed again. Pasternack had lamented UCSB’s 15 turnovers during its season-opening win over Jackson State and it was a touchy issue again on Sunday.
“The past two years, we’ve been a top-10-team in the country in not turning it over,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just because it’s early, or it’s nerves, or whatever, but we’ve got to fix that going forward.”
Hill scored three straight baskets including a three-point play to improve UCLA’s lead to 43-37.
“Obviously, Jalen Hill played a monster game,” Cronin said. “We got the ball at the basket, which helps him, but his performance was off the charts.”
Heidegger answered with a fade-away jumper along the baseline to get the Gauchos back within four points.
“Max is a warrior,” Pasternack said. “He’s not scared of anything, anybody, anywhere. Max came to play today.
“It’s great to see that he’s back physically or mentally.”
But a three-point play by Chris Smith fueled a 9-2 run that got the Bruins’ lead into double-digits, 52-41, with 13:04 to go. Smith finished with 13 points while teammate Jules Bernard made all three of his three-point tries and finished with 20 points.
“In the first half, we controlled the tempo, followed the game plan — and then they punched us in the mouth in the first four minutes of the second half,” Pasternack said. “We really couldn’t recover, unfortunately.”
UCSB got within eight twice — once on a three by JaQuori McLaughlin and again on another long bomb by Freeman. But its two centers, Sow and Robinson Idehen, had already fouled out with five minutes remaining. The Bruins’ offensive rebounding quickly turned into a feeding frenzy.
“I think UCLA will be an NCAA Tournament team, and I think we can play with them,” Pasternack said. “If we could just get that half back …”