DAVIS — Even a shooting star couldn’t get UCSB out of its black hole on Thursday.
Max Heidegger scored 24 of his season-high 31 points in the final 10-plus minutes but it wasn’t enough to rally the Gauchos from a 21-point deficit in their 84-75 defeat at UC Davis.
“We need to have that sense of urgency sooner and throughout the game rather than just in the last five minutes when we go, ‘Oh s—t, we’re going to lose,’” Heidegger said.
His great individual effort included 8-of-12 shooting from three-point range, with seven of his makes coming during a second half in which he scored 27 points. He came within one three-pointer of the school record of nine set by Brian Johnson in the 1986-87 season and matched by Michael Bryson in 2015-16.
But UC Davis (11-15, 5-5 Big West Conference) had the better team effort. The Aggies out-shot the Gauchos 56% to 45.9% and out-rebounded them 34-28. The defeat halted a three-game winning streak for UCSB (16-9, 5-5).
“You’ve got to give UC Davis credit,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “They played hard, they played tough, they played physical.
“Their mental and physical approach was much greater than ours. We weren’t ready.”
The Gauchos took their only lead of the game of 5-2 on a hook shot by Amadou Sow and Heidegger’s only three of the first half. Sow finished with 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
The Aggies missed five straight shots before a pair of threes by Rogers Printup, sandwiching a jumper by Ezra Manjon, put them ahead for good. Manjon led Davis with 20 points while Printup’s 12 points came on four three-pointers.
Another basket by Sow off Heidegger’s pass got the Gauchos within 10-7, but they missed their next seven shots and turned over two other possessions.
UCSB went especially soft during a 13-1 Davis run in the next four-plus minutes. Damion Squire, a 6-foot guard, tipped in his own miss twice during the outburst against the listless Gauchos. Joe Mooney’s three capped the spree to give the Aggies a 15-point lead, 23-8. They made 7-of-15 threes in the game.
“I don’t think I came out very hard, and I don’t think we as a team came out very hard,” Heidegger said. “We let them get confidence and let them get going and dug ourselves a huge hole.”
The Gauchos struggled with their outside shooting until Heidegger’s second-half outburst. They missed eight of nine threes during a 13-minute lull late in the first half.
Sow also sat out the last 6½ minutes of the period after getting his second foul. His replacement, Robinson Idehen, did respond with a spectacular, reverse, follow dunk to spark an 8-2 run for UCSB.
JaQuori McLaughlin also ratcheted up the Gaucho defense with three steals in the last eight minutes of the half. He finished with four steals and 14 points.
Another steal by Devearl Ramsey triggered Brandon Cyrus’ one-touch pass to Freeman for a fast-break layup which trimmed the Aggies’ lead to 27-21.
But a three by Davis’ Stefan Gonzalez ignited a 9-3 run to end the half, giving it a 36-24 lead.
UCSB warmed up in the second half with threes by McLauglin and Heidegger. It couldn’t stop the Aggie drivers, however. Back-to-back runners by Gonzalez and Caleb Fuller gave them their biggest lead of 21, 54-33, with just under 13 minutes to go. Gonzalez finished with 13 points while Fuller added 10.
“They played well as a team,” Heidegger said. “We weren’t cutting off driving lanes, we were letting guys get to their spots.”
He gave the Gauchos a chance, however, by making a trio of threes during a two-minute drill. McLaughlin added a runner in the spree to bring UCSB within 58-46.
Heidegger reached full boil late in the game, scoring 13 of his team’s 14 points during a 3½-minute outburst. He made three threes and added a runner that reduced UCSB’s deficit to 74-67 with 1:24 remaining.
“I saw a couple of them go in, and just got more aggressive,” Heidegger said. “I knew that we had to get back into the game playing defense and scoring.
“Obviously we were in a hole. It really wasn’t a close game anymore. We were all trying to get us back in the game and I was feeling it, and so the guys kind of found me. But it was obviously too little too late.”
Manjon, meanwhile, ran circles around UCSB’s guards while scoring 14 of his 20 points in the second half. The Aggies, who came into the game ranked 21st in the nation in free-throw percentage (.7692), made 21-of-24 foul shots. The Gauchos, who had been one spot ahead of Davis at No. 20 (.7694), made just 7-of-16.
“It was just one of those nights,” Pasternack said. “We shoot a lot of free throws every single day, we’re a very good free-throw shooting team, but that had nothing to do with why we lost.
“We didn’t defend, we didn’t compete guarding the ball, and they did a great job. Hats off to them.”