If winning ugly is part of basketball, the UCSB men’s basketball team is a bunch of mutant carnies.

The Gauchos robbed Cal State Northridge on Thursday night at the Matadome, snatching an early 19-2 lead before blowing the lead in the same half. They regained what little composure they had to salvage an unquestionably fortunate 57-54 victory against the Big West Conference newcomers. Senior Matador guard Markus Carr missed a potentially game-tying three-pointer at the end to preserve the win for Santa Barbara. Sophomore guard Nick Jones scored five of UCSB’s final seven points.

After UCSB (10-5, 4-1 in the Big West) jumped out to a 19-2 lead, it appeared as if the Gauchos were going to run away with an easy road victory before heading to Stockton to face the University of the Pacific on Saturday.

CSUN (3-10, 2-2) failed to connect on a field goal until redshirt sophomore forward Curtis Slaughter drilled a three-pointer with 9:28 remaining. Starting with Slaughter’s trey, Northridge began to steadily chip away at the deficit.

A tenacious, opportunistic, pressure-zone defense the Matadors employed was particularly effective in stymieing the Gauchos offensively. UCSB scored only five points in the second 10 minutes of the opening frame after pouring in 19 during the first 10 minutes of the contest. Carr’s 12 points after going scoreless in the first 11 minutes was vital for Northridge’s ascension.

Carr’s power outage in the second half was bad news for the Matadors. Carr threw up a doughnut, going 0-10 from the floor and 0-6 from three-point country. Carr’s night off became a theme for CSUN, who shot a season-low 29.1 percent.

The Matadors managed a 24-5 run to end the first half. Junior forward Mark Hull’s three was UCSB’s only field goal in that span. Northridge spurted into the locker room up 26-24.

The second half started looking a lot like the first half, with the lead bouncing back and forth between the two teams. The Gauchos started the half with three frustrating errors. Sophomore point guard Jacoby Atako failed to hit iron on a layup, senior center Adama Ndiaye threw the ball out of bounds, and the sophomore guard was called for two fouls within two minutes, including a questionable offensive foul.

UCSB caught a break midway through the half when feisty senior forward Jermar Welch caught his fourth foul and a seat on the bench with 12:53 to go. Welch, who finished with eight points and a game-high eight boards, was a thorn in the Gauchos’ side for much of the game, putting back offensive rebounds and hustling on defense. Welch dunked over three Gauchos for a 35-31 lead.

Northridge led by as many as six, 43-37, but UCSB managed to scratch and claw its way out of an off-day in the final minutes of the game.

After scoring no points in the first half, Ndiaye had a solid second half of seven points, five of six from the charity stripe, and four rebounds. Fullove, who finished with a game-high 18 points, really pulled the Gauchos ahead with his tenacious all-around play, grabbing rebounds, hitting tough leaners and killing CSUN’s momentum with a steal late in the game.

Fullove hit two pivotal free throws with 10.4 seconds remaining to finish the game’s scoring and force Carr to hit a wild three-pointer near the buzzer.