PITTSBURGH — UC Santa Barbara remained lost on the road when it lost the basketball 17 times on Tuesday.
Duquesne University scored 16 points off 17 turnovers as the Gauchos lost for the second time in as many true road games, 72-61, at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.
“We have to be able to take care of the ball on the road,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “That’s a big deal for us.
“Four of our next six are on the road — five of seven when you include tonight. We have to learn how to win on the road. That’s how you prepare your team for conference.”
The Gauchos (4-2) lost at Northern Arizona on Nov. 18 when they made just 3-of-17 three-pointers. They were nearly as bad on Tuesday (3-for-16, 18.8%), but Pasternack said errant shooting in foreign arenas isn’t the problem.
“We just had a bad shooting night in both games,” he said. “We can’t control that. But we can control turning the ball over 17 times. That led to their fast breaks. We eliminate those turnovers and we’re fine.”
The Gauchos, a veteran team which returned six of last year’s top eight scorers, were dismantled by a completely rebuilt Duquesne club. The Dukes (6-1) matched the victory total of last year’s 6-24 team by stealing the ball from UCSB eight times.
“People look at last year, but Duquesne is really good this year,” Pasternack said. “They’re 6-1 and only lost at Kentucky.”
Dae Dae Grant, one of 10 first-year players for Duquesne, made 6-of-9 three-pointers while scoring 26 points. The junior transfer from Miami of Ohio also had three steals.
“They have an NBA player, I think, at the guard position,” Pasternack said.
UCSB jumped ahead 6-4 when Miles Norris scored a put-back and assisted a layup by Andre Kelly. But the Gauchos frittered away three of their next four possessions with turnovers.
The Dukes responded with a 10-4 run which included back-to-back three-pointers by Grant and Quincy McGriff. They improved on their season accuracy of 38% — ranked 50th in the nation — by making 42.1% of their threes (8-for-19) on Tuesday.
UCSB got within 18-14 on another Norris-to-Kelly combination on the post. Kelly finished with 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting while Norris added 10.
But the Gauchos missed five of their next six shots to fall behind 26-17. They were 0-for-5 from three until Cole Anderson made one on another assist by Norris. All five of Norris’ assists came in the first half.
Ajay Mitchell, who ranked 16th in the nation with an assist average of 6.2 per game, had just one on Tuesday. He got three quick fouls and played just 10 minutes in the first half. He finished with 10 points.
“Foul trouble really took Ajay out of his rhythm,” Pasternack said.
Josh Pierre-Louis, who transferred to UCSB from Philadelphia’s Temple University, marked his return to Pennsylvania by leading the Gauchos with 15 points. He scored a pair of runners during a six-point run which reduced their deficit to 28-26 with 2:34 left in the first half.
He made 6-of-8 shots in the game but also had six turnovers.
“He had nine rebounds and scored the ball well, but he’s got to cut down on his turnovers,” Pasternack said.
Grant hit a pair of threes to key a 9-1 run in the final 2½ minutes of the first half and give the Dukes their first double-digit lead of 37-27 heading into the break. The Gauchos were out-shot 55.6% to 44% in the first half.
“Defensively in the first half, we gave up too many transition baskets, and we didn’t finish layups,” Pasternack said. “If we had, I think it would’ve been a lot closer in the first half.”
They warmed up in the second period to finish at 48.9% overall, just under Duquesne’s 49.1%.
They added to their turnover total, however, with two more in the first minute of the second half. Two more threes by Grant gave Duquesne its biggest lead of 45-31 with 14:18 to go.
The Gauchos rallied with a 9-2 run which featured Norris’ three, back-to-back hook shots by Kelly, and a put-back by Pierre-Louis.
Pierre-Louis scored seven points during a 2½-minute flurry which got UCSB within 55-51. He capped the run with a dunk off Kelly’s pass.
Another dunk by Jakov Kukic off a rebound kept the Dukes’ lead at four points, 57-53. UCSB out-rebounded Duquesne 30-27.
But three turnovers and a pair of missed threes enabled Duquesne to go on a 10-2 run in the next five minutes and seal the Gauchos’ doom.
“I’m proud that our guys fought really hard,” Pasternack said. “We cut it to four points in the second half. But then our turnovers really hurt us … That and the free-throw line.”
The Gauchos made just 63.2% of their free throws (12-for-19).
“We have really good free-throw shooters,” Pasternack said. “It would’ve been nip-and-tuck at the end if we’d knocked down our free throws.”
UCSB will return to the Thunderome to play Pacific on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Gauchos will then hit the road again for games at Peperdine on Dec. 10, at Portland State on Dec. 17, and in Phoenix on Dec. 21 to play Appalachian State in the Jerry Colangelo Classic.
“We have a very, very tough stretch here, and we have to learn how to deal with it,” Pasternack said. “Portland State beat Oregon State twice — swept them — and Pepperdine has had some very nice wins.
“We have to be better on the road in the things we can control, and that’s defense, rebounding and taking care of the basketball.”