Max Heidegger, shown in an earlier game, scored 27 points in a UCSB win at Cal State Fullerton. (Noozhawk file photo)

FULLERTON  – UC Santa Barbara closed the game on a 16-3 run to turn a 63-59 deficit into a 75-66 win at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night.

The 16-3 stretch over the final 5:26 included a 10-of-12 performance from the free-throw line by the Gauchos (17-9 overall, 6-5 Big West), who have now won four of their last five and five of their last seven. It began when Max Heidegger, who finished with a game-high 27 points, and Devearl Ramsey each hit a pair from the charity stripe to tie the game at 63. 

The Titans (10-17, 5-7) reclaimed a narrow 64-63 lead when Davon Clare made 1-of-2 free throws after he was fouled by Ramsey with 3:59 to play. On the other Heidegger scored on a nifty driving layup to put UCSB in front for good, 65-64. 

Brandon Kamga, who finished with a team-high 20 points for Fullerton, took a step-back jumper that missed and was rebounded by Amadou Sow who got the ball to Heidegger. The senior guard drove the baseline and found Matt Freeman above the top of the key. Freeman, who scored 11 points on the night, including nine in the first seven minutes of the game, pump-faked, dribbled to the free throw line, made another fake and then made a jumper, pushing the advantage to 67-64 with 2:56 remaining. 

Following a timeout, the Titans got the ball to Kamga, but his jumper in the key was blocked by JaQuori McLaughlin and retrieved by Heidegger, who got the ball to a streaking Ramsey. Ramsey drove into the paint and rewarded McLaughlin with a lob pass that was banked in, giving the Gauchos a 69-64 lead at the 2:27 mark.

A steal by Heidegger of a pass by Clare gave UCSB the ball back. With 1:52 remaining, Heidegger was fouled driving to the basket and he made both free throws to make the score 71-64.

Jackson Rowe missed a three-pointer, after opening the second half by making 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, and Ramsey was fouled when he collected the rebound. He made both free throws and the score was 73-64 with less than a minute to play. Rowe then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Freeman came down with the rebound, got the ball to Heidegger who was intentionally fouled. He made 1-of-2 charity shots with 44 seconds left, completing an 11-0 and giving Santa Barbara a 74-64 advantage. A pair of free throws by Clare and one more for Heidegger made the final score 75-66. 

“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Heidegger said. “Even after last week (a loss at UC Davis) we didn’t get down. We continued to work hard and believed in ourselves. We came out strong tonight and then we finished strong. That’s important to us.” 

The Gauchos jumped out of the gates fast, claiming an 11-0 lead in the first 2:55 of the game before Fullerton started to claw its way back, closing the gap to 34-29 by halftime. The Titans ultimately took their first lead, 56-55, on an acrobatic layup by Austin Awosika with 7:34 on the clock. 

“Tonight was a good win for us,” said head coach Joe Pasternack. “I don’t know if I would call it a bounce-back game because we always focus on the next game, not the last game, but to go on the road and close a game out the way we did is big.” 

Heidegger made 8-of-16 field goals overall and 3-for-5 from three-point range for his 27 points. He also added seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and no turnovers. McLaughlin joined Heidegger and Freeman in double-figures with 11 points while adding five assists and two steals. Ramsey had nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. Sow had just eight points and five rebounds, but he also recorded a career-high five blocked shots. 

In addition to Kamga’s 20, Rowe had 18, all in the second half, for Fullerton. Wayne Arnold also had 11. Awosika, who came into the game averaging 13.5 points per game, finished with just four.

As a team, UCSB finished at 45.6% from the field, including 50.0% in the second half. The Gauchos also outscored the Titans from the 17-5 from the free throw line and won the battle of the boards, 35-33. They also committed a season-low six turnovers. 

UCSB will return home on Saturday, Feb. 22 for a 7:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome against UC Davis, which won the first meeting between the schools on Feb. 13. At the game against the Aggies, there will be 25 $100.00 Amazon Gift Cards given out to students throughout the game.