UCSB will look for a new start today after last Sunday’s tough finish at UCLA, playing host to Rice in a 2 p.m. men’s basketball matinee at the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos (1-1) gave up a halftime lead of 34-32 at Pauley Pavilion while getting outscored by 18 points.
“We would’ve liked to have gotten that win – we could’ve gotten it – but we don’t want to be peaking now, anyway,” Max Heidegger said. “We’ve just got to get after it, watch film, and recalibrate from there.”
Heidegger’s senior season is off to a good start. The 6-foot-3 guard has averaged 20 points and 3.5 assists in UCSB’s first two games, making better than 50 percent of his shots in consecutive games for the first time since his All-Big West Conference sophomore season.
He actually made last year’s debut at Rice, scoring 22 points after having missed the Gauchos’ first nine games with concussion-related symptoms. UCSB wound up beating the Owls, 99-89, in a wild overtime game that saw both teams lead by as many as 12 points.
Rice (3-1), one of the youngest teams in college basketball last year under coach Scott Pera, has bounced back well from an opening-night shellacking of 91-43 at Arkansas. Its current three-game winning streak includes an 80-61 rout over Penn, which was picked to finish second in the Ivy League this season.
“Penn beat Alabama at Alabama, so Rice is obviously a very dangerous team,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “We were fortunate to come out of there with a victory last year, and they predominantly have all their players back.
“They’re all a year older and will be a tough challenge for us.”
Trey Murphy III, a 6-foot-8 sophomore guard, leads the Owls with averages of 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Trey was aptly named, with nine three-pointers to his credit already this season. He’s making them at a rate of 37.5 percent.
“They really shoot the three well,” Pasternack said. “They can drive the ball, too, and are explosive on offense.
“What they did to Penn was pretty astonishing considering what Penn had just done at Alabama.”
Chris Mullins scored 21 points against UCSB last year as a freshman but is still looking for his shot. He’s averaging 3.8 points while having made just 1-of-11 three-point attempts.
Another sophomore, 6-8 Drew Peterson, is Rice’s top rebounder at 7.3 per game. Ako Adams, a 6-3 senior, is scoring at an 11-point clip.
UCSB has its own heralded sophomore in Amadou Sow. The 6-foot-9 forward has been named to the Lou Henson Award Watch List – an honor given to the nation’s top Division 1 player at a mid-major university.
Sow is averaging 13.5 points on 76.9 percent shooting and a team-best 9.5 rebounds even though he fouled out at UCLA with five minutes remaining.
JaQuori McLaughlin, a junior guard, had one of his best games as a Gaucho at Rice last year, scoring 22 points which included 6-for-8 shooting from three. He’s made a team-best four threes in UCSB’s two games this year and is averaging 11.0 points.
Junior point guard Devearl Ramsey, like Rice’s Mullins, is looking for a breakout game today. He’s made just 1-of-10 shots and has missed all five of his threes so far this season. He leads the Gauchos with nine assists but also has eight turnovers.
Pasternack is just glad that his Gauchos, who will next play at Oregon State on Wednesday, are getting tested early.
“It was a great learning experience,” he said of the UCLA game. “We can play with anybody. We saw how we can play with them during the first 20 minutes of the game.
“Unfortunately, basketball is a 40-minute game.”
And basketball season is longer than just game.