Sophomore Amadou Sow scored 20 points while making all seven of his field goal attempts, and UC Santa Barbara shot 59.6% as a team in a season-opening 83-62 win over visiting Jackson State on Wednesday night. The win was the 100th of Joe Pasternack’s coaching career.
The Gauchos (1-0) had four players in double-figures as Sow was joined by Max Heidegger (19), JaQuori McLaughlin (17) and Brandon Cyrus (12). Tristan Jarrett led the Tigers (0-2) with 19 points.
JSU ran out to a 9-2 lead with 17:00 left in the first half. UCSB responded with a 20-4 run to take a 22-13 lead at the 10:33 mark but then turnovers allowed the Tigers to eat into the lead and it was 37-34 at halftime. Heidegger (13) and McLaughlin (10) combined for 23 points in the first half for the Gauchos, who had 10 turnovers at the break and finished with 15.
“I’ll go back and look closely at the film,” Pasternack said. “You don’t win a lot of games when you turn the ball over 15 times, but we did a lot of good things tonight.”
Venjile Wallis, who finished with 10 points, opened the second half with a three-point play to tie the score for the Tigers, but a 6-0 run by UCSB, highlighted by a McLaughlin three-pointer and a jumper in the lane by Heidegger, pushed the edge back to 43-37 and the lead never fell below four points the rest of the way.
The Gauchos were leading 47-43 with 14:38 remaining in the game, but four free throws and a short jumper by Sow, and layups by Heidegger and McLaughlin gave them a 10-0 run and put the game out of reach with just over 11 minutes to play. The advantage stretched to 23 in the waning minutes before Santa Barbara settled in for a 21-point win.
While UCSB was making 28-of-47 field goal attempts overall (59.6%) and 9-of-21 (42.1%) from beyond the three-point arc, JSU was held to 22-of-61 overall (36.1%) and 6-of-20 (30.0%) from long distance.
“I thought we did a really good job on the defensive end, especially after the first few minutes,” Pasternack said. “We also had 18 more rebounds than them (41-23). That’s our identity, defense and rebounding. If you do those things, you’ll always be in games.”
Sow’s game-high 20 points was accompanied by a game-high nine rebounds. Heidegger, who hit 7-of-11 shots, including a pair of threes, added six rebounds. McLaughlin was 6-for-9 overall and made three of his five three-point attempts to go along with four assists. Cyrus, playing his first game after sitting out the 2018-19 season after transferring from DePaul, had a slow start but finished with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.
“Brandon is a huge part of this team and how we want to play,” Pasternack said. “He worked so hard in his year off and that’s going to pay off. He’s so improved and he really honored the process and put in the work. He can play the one, two, three or four, which he did tonight.”
Another player who stood out for the Gauchos was forward Robinson Idehen. Playing just 13:44, he made all three of his field goal attempts to score six points along with eight rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
“Robinson is our most improved player,” Pasternack said. “He worked so hard over the summer. I’ve never coached a harder worker and that showed tonight.”
Santa Barbara returns to action on Sunday, Nov. 10 when it travels to UCLA for a 4:00 p.m. game at Pauley Pavilion. The game against the Bruins will air on Pac 12 Network.