UCSB senior JaQuori McLaughlin is on a winning streak — of basketball games and basketball awards.
The 6-foot-4 guard was honored as both National Mid-Major Player of the Week as well as Big West Conference Player of the Week after leading the Gauchos to a pair of victories at Cal State Northridge.
The performances helped UCSB (10-3, 4-2 Big West Conference) extend its winning streak to six games.
“He comes from two amazing parents and was raised the right way,” Gaucho coach Joe Pasternack said. “He’s developed each year and gotten better — it’s amazing, the strides he’s made — and it’s what you always hope for as a coach.
“In the past, you would see flashes of how good he is. But now he’s so consistent. And it goes back to, I believe, who he is as a person. There is such a consistency about him as a person.
“There’s no guessing about which JaQuori is going to show up. He’s the same every day.”
College Sports Madness named him as its National Mid-Major Player of the Week after he averaged 23.0 points on 76.2% shooting, which included 6-of-9 from three-point range (66.7%), in the two road wins. He scored 21 points in Friday’s 103-58 rout and a career-high in Saturday’s 80-66 triumph.
His 46 points came in just 51 minutes of play.
McLaughlin moved up to third on the Big West scoring list with an average of 16.9 points per game. He’s seventh in three-point percentage (43.8%) and 11th in field-goal percentage (52.9%). He also made 8-of-8 foul shots at Northridge, improving his season free-throw percentage to 89.7% — third-best in the league.
“He’s a very versatile guard who can play with ball screens and can play off the ball screens,” Pasternack said. “He can play off another guy, driving the ball, and it makes him very dangerous. You can’t guard him just one way.”
His playmaking also ranks among the nation’s best. His wide array of passes has led to an assist average of 5.3 per game, ranking second in the Big West and 39th in the nation.
“I’ve definitely been working on it,” McLaughlin said. “The biggest thing I’ve done is watch what other guys do things in a game, in NBA games, and I’ll try those things in practice.
“I’m trying new things all the time and watching film. That’s the biggest thing about trying new passes and things like that.”
His assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.76 ranks 13th nationally. Together with Devearl Ramsey’s No. 4 ranking of 5.00, the Gauchos are fourth as a team at 1.83. They are also seventh in team assists per game at 18.6.
“He’s become such a great leader,” Pasternack said. “His teammates follow him. Whenever your best player is your best passer and is so unselfish, it breeds unselfishness to your entire team.
“That has a lot to do with why our assist-to-turnover and assist-to-field goal ratios are so high and among the top ones in the country.”
The Big West Player of the Week Award is McLaughlin’s fifth overall and third in the last six weeks — the most for a Gaucho since Alan Williams won three during the 2014-15 season.
“I can’t say enough about his character,” Pasternack said. “To me, that’s why he’s improved so much each year and is playing at a very high level right now.
“He just loves the game of basketball.”
UCSB will continue its road trip with 4 p.m. games on Friday and Saturday at UC Davis. The Aggies (3-3, 1-1 Big West) were sidelined by the Yolo County Health Department for seven weeks over concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic. They returned to action last weekend to split two games at UC San Diego.
The Gauchos have had no games canceled since opening their season on Nov. 29.
“You don’t really know what’s going to happen, but as a team, you take it one day at a time,” McLaughlin said. “We’re just blessed to be able to play now.”