An energy surge at the Thunderdome created a few short-circuits to start UCSB’s basketball game on Saturday, but UC Davis got completely jolted by that Gaucho electricity by game’s end.
UCSB outscored the Aggies 27-12 in the last four minutes to rally for a 70-56 victory.
“We had a lot of positive energy going because we really wanted to win this game,” point guard Devearl Ramsey said. “We really want to end conference strong and just play our hardest.”
Ramsey scored 13 points while fellow guard Max Heidegger led all scorers with 17. Amadou Sow finished with 16 after a 12-point second half.
“This game wasn’t about offense, and it really wasn’t about defense — it was strictly about heart,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “Our guys competed and played so hard. When we do that, we can beat anybody.”
With the win, UCSB (18-9, 7-5 Big West Conference) jumped past UC Davis (12-16, 7-6) and into sole possession of second place in the league standings.
But the Gauchos have their eye on a bigger prize.
“Second place doesn’t mean anything,” Sow said. “In this league, it comes down to the (Big West) tournament. If you win the tournament, you get to go to the NCAA. It’s all about that.”
Sparks even flared after the final buzzer. UC Davis’ Joe Mooney pushed Heidegger from behind and the Gauchos’ Brandon Cyrus returned the favor to the Aggies’ guard. Mooney also kicked some water bottles and pushed a fan on his way to the locker room.
Aggies’ coach Jim Les also yelled at Pasternack during the handshake line, setting off a few more shoves between players.
“I think emotions fly,” Pasternack said. “It’s a competitive sport. But I’m not really sure (what was being said).
“I think coach Les is one of the best coaches in the country. I think he is very, very hard to beat. His teams execute as well as any team I’ve ever coached against in my career.”
The Gauchos were a little too excited at the start, turning over their first three possessions while going the first two full minutes without a shot. They committed their sixth turnover before even seven minutes had expired, but only three more the rest of the game.
“In the beginning, we were a little anxious and just wanted to get out there playing hard,” Ramsey said. “We tried to channel our energy in the right way.
“We just have to stay calm and make the right reads and make the right plays, and I think we did that in the second half.”
Davis seized the early opportunity, making four of its first five shots including three-pointers by Rogers Printup and Damion Squire. Elijah Pepper’s back-to-back runners put the Aggies up 10-2.
“You can’t lose your mind because of what happened in the first war, the first four minutes,” Pasternack said. “They really took it to us in the first war.”
But UCSB held Davis to just 16-of-46 shooting the rest of the way and 39.2% for the game. The Aggies, who rank seventh in the nation in three-point shooting, made only four more threes after their fast start and shot 28.6% from three for the game.
Ramsey held Davis point guard Ezra Manjon to just six points on 2-for-8 shooting while Heidegger kept Stefan Gonzalez, the nation’s leading three-point shooter, to just two triples and eight points.
“Devearl did an amazing job,” Pasternack said. “Ezra was the Big West Player of the Week last week … is a terrific player — a young kid that can really go. He’s one of the best point guards in our league.
“And I think Max is the best all-around player — most complete player — in the Big West Conference. He got 17 points, but he also got four assists to one turnover … and he’s always picking up the best player on the other team. He’s competing and his defense was excellent.”
A driving basket by Cyrus ignited a 9-4 run that got UCSB back in the game. His tip-in six minutes later triggered an even bigger, 18-2 spree.
Ramsey scored eight straight points, sandwiching a coast-to-coast layup with a pair of threes, during a three-minute outburst.
“My teammates were just finding me, and in transition I’m just trying to push the pace — coach is always telling me to do that,” Ramsey said. “Amadou had me on the skip (pass), and Max had me on the skip. Those guys are looking for me when they attack a crowd and I just hit my shots.”
Robinson Idehen asserted himself when he came in for Sow. He ripped the ball out of Matt Neufeld’s hands for a layup and then threw down a dunk off JaQuori McLaughlin’s pass to give the Gauchos their biggest lead of the first half, 29-21.
Idehen finished with eight points and five rebounds in just 10 minutes. McLaughlin led all players with seven assists while scoring eight points. The Gauchos shot 49.1% for the game.
“Our team is passing the ball and being unselfish,” Pasternack said. “We had 17 assists to nine turnovers … Man, that’s how you play offense. We really shared the ball.”
Mooney made a pair of jumpers including a three to draw Davis to within 31-26 by halftime. The Aggies then surged to a 44-43 lead after another three by Mooney and a runner by Squire with 10:33 to go.
But McLaughlin engineered a quick 7-0 run for UCSB, assisting a three by Heidegger and a layup by Sow while scoring a runner of his own. He added a three with 7:27 remaining after a block by Idehen to give the Gauchos a 54-48 lead.
“Every guy on our team is a great playmaker,” Ramsey said. “We’ve got three point guards, essentially, with JaQuori and Max.”
Sow scored their next two baskets and then started a fast break which Heidegger capped with a fast-break layup off Cyrus’ pass for a 60-50 lead.
The Aggies Kenndy Koehler scored the game’s next points to get his team within 60-56, but Heidegger turned the momentum right back around with a long three from the top.
“I held my breath,” Pasternack said. “I didn’t know whether to take him out of the game, being mad at him, but it went in.”
It started a game-ending, 10-0 run for the Gauchos which included a whirling, left-handed basket by Sow, a three by Ramsey to beat the shot clock, and Ramsey’s tear-drop on a fast break started by Sow’s blocked shot.
“We don’t look at the standings very much — everyone is bunched up now,” Ramsey said. “We just want to play hard and keep getting better as a team and make our strides at the right time of year.”