Behind a huge 26-point performance by star junior guard Max Heidegger, the UCSB men’s basketball team took down the CSUN Matadors 70-64. With the win, UCSB rose to a 6-2 conference, 17-5 overall record and solidified its second place standing in the Big West. The Matadors dropped to a 4-4 conference, 10-14 overall record on the year and stayed put at fifth place in the conference standing.
The Gauchos actually struggled out of the gate, turning the ball over on three of their first four possessions. In total, UCSB had 11 turnovers in the first half, leading to 12 points for CSUN.
“We had a slow start, which is unacceptable,” freshman forward Amadou Sow pointed out postgame. “We came out slow, and let them do whatever they wanted to do.”
Due to Santa Barbara’s uncharacteristic sloppiness on the offensive end, the Matadors jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead, with freshman phenom Lamine Diane — a Senegalese forward who leads the Big West with 24.1 ppg — pacing the team with nine of the 11 points.
As has been the case all season, CSUN looked to feed Diane early and often on Wednesday. In the first half, Diane led all scorers with 17 points on an efficient 73 percent shooting from the floor, and he eventually finished with a game-high 28. With the undersized Gauchos unable to match up with the lanky forward, Head Coach Joe Pasternack was forced to bring junior forward Jarriesse Blackmon on to try to limit Diane.
Despite this slow start, the Gauchos were able to claw their way back into the game, tying the game at 28 with 1:24 left in the half. UCSB leaned on the resurgent play of Heidegger, who led the Gauchos with nine points in the half — including a handful of tough finishes in the paint. After weathering CSUN’s torrid start to the game, Santa Barbara only found itself down one point at the half, 29-28.
The Gauchos started off the second half with an aggressive mindset.
Defensively, one of the big changes that Pasternack made was doubling Diane and forcing other players to beat UCSB. This led to a bunch of contested three pointers for CSUN in the second half as the Matadors played right into the Gaucho’s hands, ending the game 1-21 from beyond the arc.
Heidegger ignited the UCSB offense in the second half. He had yet to have a signature performance since he came back from the leg injury which kept him out for a good part of the non-conference schedule, but as the game went on it became clear that he’s back to his previous form.
“When you take three months off and you do nothing you’re not just gonna show up and be who you were last year,” Pasternack explained when asked about Heidegger’s performance. “But he’s honored the process extremely well and done an amazing job, and he’s just getting back to who he is… I’m just so happy and proud of him.”
The guard had 17 points on 3-6 shooting from three in the second half, and consistently knocked down big shot after big shot right when the Gauchos needed it. He made a deep wing three with two minutes to go in the game to put UCSB up 64-58 and the team never looked back, eventually getting the 70-64 win.
The Gauchos are now looking to put together their second three-game win streak of the year as they get set to host UC Davis on Saturday night. With their sights set on first-place in the Big West, the team knows that they can’t take a slumping Aggie team lightly.
“Right now [UC Davis] is the conference champion and they have TJ Shorts the reigning player of the year,” Pasternack said. “Last time we played them at home they beat us very bad… it’ll be a battle just like tonight.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the Feb. 7, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus