Sanni, a transfer from Pacific, buried five three-pointers on eight attempts en route to 16 points. His last bonus basket was a backbreaker for the Waves. He took a pass from JaQuori McLaughlin and knocked down the shot from the deep left corner for a 69-60 lead with 1:37 to go.
McLaughlin turned in another solid performance with game highs of 23 points and eight assists. Devearl Ramsey had 15 points, and Amadou Sow added nine and 12 rebounds.
Guard Colbey Ross had 20 points and six assists, and freshman Kendall Munson scored 16 points on 6-7 shooting for the Waves, which had two starters exit the game with injuries.
UCSB, which was coming off a loss at Loyola Marymount, is now 4-1 on the season. Pepperdine is 3-2.
The Gauchos never trailed in the game. They jumped out to an 11-2 lead behind three-pointers from McLaughlin, Ramsey and Sanni.
Pepperdine cut the lead to one (19-18) before UCSB went on a 9-2 run. Sanni hit a three during the run that put the Gauchos up 28-20.
They got Sow involved in the paint and he helped build the lead to 37-23.
Pepperdine worked its way back in the second half and pulled to within, two, 58-56 with 4:47 left.
McLaughlin missed the front end of a one and one, but Josh Pierre-Louis came up with a huge steal on Pepperdine’s next possession. He intercepted a cross-court pass and went coast to coast for a layup and a 60-56 UCSB lead.
Pierre-Louis made another spectacular play on a loose ball that led to a McLaughlin layup for 64-56 advantage. On a long rebound after a missed Pepperdine three-point attempt, Pierre-Louis raced to the ball and made an incredible spinning move around a Waves’ player and passed to a streaking McLaughlin with 3:29 left in regulation.
Pepperdine got to within six (68-54 and 66-60), but the Gauchos responded Sanni’s clutch corner three with 1:37 left.
UCSB outscored the Waves 9-3 down the stretch.
The Gauchos shot 25 of 55 from the floor and 9 of 23 on three-pointers. Pepperdine was 22-57 and made just three three-pointers on 18 attempts.