After a hard-fought loss to the University of Pittsburgh Wednesday night, the UCSB men’s basketball team is now set to face off against No. 16 Texas A&M on Friday.

UCSB competed right until the final minutes in its first game of the Progressive Legends Classic tournament, eventually falling 70-62 to the Panthers.

Both teams started out shooting hot from the three-point line, as sophomore guard Max Heidegger and senior forward Leland King II continued their amazing shooting from the three-point line.

Although Heidegger finished 4-for-15 from the field with only 13 points, he played outstanding in the first half, helping push the Gaucho lead to as high as 10 before it fell to six going into halftime, 38-32.

The Pitt defense woke up in the second half, however, limiting UCSB to 24 points. The Gauchos’ poor free-throw shooting, in which they converted 10-of-22 free throws, was one component that stunted their scoring.

As the game wore on and Pitt’s offense picked up, the Gauchos weren’t able to consistently depend on their inside game and often had to launch desperation three-pointers at the end of the shot clock.

The Panthers relied on a balanced offensive approach for the game, as they had five players in double digits. While UCSB did a good job containing senior forward Ryan Luther on offense, holding him to 13 points, he snuck out for some clutch baskets late in the game and was dominant on the glass, finishing with 10 rebounds to round out his double-double performance.

Most of the Gauchos’ offense went through King II, who performed great under the pressure of the hostile crowd, but was unable to complete the task of carrying the team to victory.

He finished with 22 points and 8 rebounds, an almost identical stat line compared to his numbers in the team’s season opener, yet ultimately a lack of help on the offensive end from his teammates led to the game slipping away as the game’s final minutes ticked away.

Looking ahead, the Gauchos’ next opponent is Texas A&M, who showed flashes of a team with top 10 potential, having dominated then No. 11 West Virginia 88-65 in its first game.

Center Tyler Davis is certainly one Aggie player the Gauchos will attempt to contain. The junior scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds on the way to his first double-double of the year last weekend.

Davis averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds in 2016-17 and seems to be looking to carry a bigger offensive workload this year.

It will be up to UCSB’s senior forward Jalen Canty to keep up with Davis, which will be an interesting challenge considering he has shown signs of dominance through two games down low and on the boards, nearly averaging a double-double (11.5 points and 9 rebounds per game).

Another high impact player for the Aggies is junior guard Admon Gilder, who also picked up 23 points in their opening blowout. He finished with nine rebounds and seven assists, a testament to just how versatile of a player he is.

His combination of speed and size makes him a tough cover for both guards and forwards, and the Gauchos will have to find a way to disrupt his game if they want to get stops on the defensive end.

The Aggies are also a top rebounding team in the country, having snatched up 47 rebounds against WVU, which should be a focal point for the Gauchos coming into the matchup.

In Wednesday night’s close loss against Pitt, there were a few late-game offensive boards that UCSB surrendered which really cost them in allowing second-chance points.

Friday’s game won’t even be close if the Aggies control the paint, something that the Gaucho frontcourt will have to keep in mind.

This will be one of the biggest tests for the Gauchos this year, both in terms of how they respond to a loss and going up against an Associated Poll (AP) ranked opponent.

Many of the problems that they had against the Panthers were self-inflicted, whether it be missing free throws or defensive assignments, and in a loud venue like Reed Arena, discipline will be hard to keep.

It’s going to take a lot to beat Texas A&M, but UCSB’s best chance is going to be knocking down the good looks they get and cleaning up the glass.

If the Gauchos manage to do both, they’ll have a great opportunity to spoil the Aggies home opener.

UCSB and No. 16 Texas A&M will tip-off at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17. The game will be played at Reed Arena.

A version of this story appeared on p. 9 of the Nov. 16, 2017, edition of the Daily Nexus.

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