Figuring they would cruise ahead of the University of Pacific after Thursday’s near-debacle at Northridge, the UCSB men’s basketball players never saw the Tigers pounce on them in the second half.
Pacific erased a six-point halftime deficit and outscored the Gauchos 42-33 in the second half while shooting a sizzling 58 percent from the field, including 4-8 from three-point country. With the 73-70 win Saturday evening at the Spanos Center, the Tigers inched within half a game of UCSB in the Big West Conference standings, improving to 3-2.
“They got hot,” sophomore guard Nick Jones said. “Five minutes into the second half, they started making almost all their shots.”
Perhaps more significant than any loss could ever be was senior center Adama Ndiaye re-aggravating his shoulder in the opening minutes of the second half. Ndiaye first injured his shoulder in the 57-54 victory over CSUN Thursday evening.
“It’s all right,” Ndiaye said the evening after the game. “It’s a little sore right now, and I’ll ice it later and get treatment in the morning. Hopefully, it will get better sometime this week.”
Ndiaye was on pace for a monster game when he exited. He shot 5-6 from the floor and 7-8 at the charity stripe for 17 points in only 24 minutes. Ndiaye also gleaned five rebounds and rejected a shot.
The UOP coaching staff was boosted by an all-around team effort in every sense of the word. Seven of 10 players scored nine or more points for the Tigers and five players were in double figures.
The 46.3 percent shooting overall by Pacific was the highest Santa Barbara has given up since a home loss to Utah State on Jan. 5, when the Aggies shot 46.7 percent. The 73 points were also the most given up by UCSB since a road loss to Loyola Marymount on Dec. 5, when the Lions roared to a 77-70 win.
“We made them shoot over us, but once they started making their shots, that fueled their defense, the crowd got into it and they continued making their shots,” Jones said.
The Gauchos (10-5, 4-2 in the Big West), who have out-rebounded their opponents by around six and a half boards a contest, could only muster a 30-30 deadlock on the glass. UOP collected three more offensive rebounds. Another glaring advantage for the Tigers was Santa Barbara struggling to efficiently take care of the ball. UCSB coughed up the basketball 13 times in the game compared with the Tigers’ six.
Pacific (11-5, 3-2) outscored the Gauchos 20-9 in second chance and fast break points, as each Gaucho mistake hindered Santa Barbara’s chances of pulling away on the road. The Tigers’ bench also outscored UCSB’s 23-13.
“We knew on the road we had to minimize our turnovers,” senior center Mike Vukovich said. “We had to get to the free throw line more and take care of the ball. We played really hard, but we just didn’t do the little things to win the game.”
Senior guard Maurice McLemore poured in 11 points for UOP and dished a team-high four assists with no turnovers in 35 minutes. Junior guard Demetrius Jackson chipped in 10 points, including a key late bucket.
The Tigers survived junior forward Mark Hull’s hot hand in the final 5:40, when he punched in 13 of his game-high 18 points.
Hull’s two free-throws brought UCSB to 65-63 with 1:40 remaining in the contest, yet Jackson responded by hitting a baseline jumper that just beat the shot clock and sent UCSB reeling.
“I think they hit better shots than we did,” senior center Mike Vukovich said. “They have four or five guys that shoot 40 percent or better on threes. We knew coming in they were a good shooting team. Obviously, in the second half we didn’t get out and affect their shots, put a hand in their face, and make them not want to shoot.”