UCSB’s JaQuori McLaughlin tries to score against Southern’s Skyler Biggs. McLaughlin led the Gauchos with 24 points. (Felipe Garcia / Noozhawk photo)

JaQuori McLaughlin scored a career-high 24 points and Amadou Sow had 23 and a team-high six rebounds as UC Santa Barbara overcame a 10-point deficit to record a 77-68 win over visiting Southern University on Friday night. 

The Gauchos (8-4) fell behind 11-1 right out of the gate and still trailed the Jaguars (3-10) 34-26 at halftime. They took their first lead of the game, 40-39, on a jumper in the lane by McLaughlin with 15:01 remaining in the game. 

“When we go into games, we try to approach them as four 10-minute wars,” said head coach Joe Pasternack. “We aren’t winning all of the wars yet, but tonight we defended well, rebounded and made shots in the second half, and that was enough.” 

The lead was extended to 53-46 on a three-pointer by McLaughlin at the 9:56 mark, but that’s when Southern battled back, going on a 10-2 run, tying the score at 55 on a three-pointer by Amel Kuljuhovic from deep in the corner with 6:33 to play.

UCSB responded. McLaughlin was fouled on the perimeter and made 1-of-2 free throws, putting his team back into the lead, 56-55. On the other end, Sekou Toure blocked a shot by Isaiah Rollins and Sow got the rebound. He passed the ball to Devearl Ramsey who went coast-to-coast for a layup and a 58-55 lead. 

Damiree Burns got Southern back within one point when he rebounded a missed three-point attempt by Lamarcus Lee and scored on the put-back, making it 58-57 with 5:27 on the clock. 

Sow put the Gauchos back into the lead at 60-57 when he took a feed from McLaughlin and scored on a short jump hook with 5:05 on the clock. The Jaguars’ Darius Williams was fouled by Sow and made both free throws to cut the gap to 60-59 with 4:48 remaining, and then UCSB took over. 

A three-pointer by McLaughlin with 4:13 left made the score 63-59. Brandon Cyrus’ three-pointer with 2:35 left made it 66-59 and then Ramsey nailed a three from deep in the left corner with 1:35 left to make it 69-59.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself and my teammates,” McLaughlin said. “When we honor the process, do what is expected of us, we are successful.” 

Brendon Brook stemmed the tide when he hit a triple of his own from the right side at the 1:09 mark, carving the Gaucho lead to 69-62. After McLaughlin was intentionally fouled and hit a pair of free throws to make it 71-62, Ahsante Shivers drained his third three-pointer of the game to cut the lead to 71-65. Shivers finished with a team-high 22 points. 

McLaughlin was fouled again and made both free throws to make the score 73-65 with 38 seconds on the clock. Shivers scored on a short jumper in the paint at the 32 second mark. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw, cutting the Gauchos’ lead to 73-68. 

Sow hit a pair of free throws with 24 second to play, pushing the lead back to 75-68 and then, following a defensive stand, Santa Barbara’s Matt Freeman was fouled with 10 ticks left on the clock. He made both free throws to make it a 77-68 game and that was the final score.

In addition to McLaughlin and Sow scoring in double-figures, Ramsey finished with 10 points and four assists. Cyrus added seven points and five rebounds. Robinson Idehen had six points, making both of his field goal attempts and a both of his free throws. Freeman had seven points, five rebounds and a game-high five assists. 

As a team, Santa Barbara shot 49.0% overall, including 57.1% in the second half, and a season-high 53.3% from three-point range. The Gauchos also made 19-of-24 free throw attempts, 79.2%. In addition, after turning the ball over seven times in the first half, they had just two in the second half.

The Jaguars, who made 50.0% of their shots in the first half, hit just 42.9% in the second half and finished at 46.3%. 

Santa Barbara has now won two consecutive games and seven of its last eight.

UCSB will play its final pre-Christmas game on Sunday, Dec. 22 when it hosts Merrimack College in a 2:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome.