Balanced Gauchos Cruise Past Pepperdine, 92-84

Marcus Jackson
Marcus Jackson

MALIBU, Calif. – Max Heidegger scored 24 points to lead a balanced attack that saw all five starters  score in double-figures, as visiting UC Santa Barbara defeated Pepperdine in a sub-regional game of the Progressive Legends Classic on Monday night, 92-84.

The Gauchos (2-2) ended the first half on a 12-3 run to transform a 30-30 game into a 42-33 lead at halftime and the Waves (1-3) never got closer than four rest of the way. They did make it interesting, closing the gap to 64-60 with possession, but a forced turnover and a 10-0 UCSB run made it 74-60 with 5:41 to play.

The decisive rally began with a pair of inside baskets by Jalen Canty and then culminated with back-to-back three-pointers by Heidegger and Marcus Jackson. Pepperdine got to within 86-81 with 22 seconds left, but could get no closer.

"We had great offensive balance tonight," said Gaucho head coach Joe Pasternack. "For the most part, we made good decisions and took good shots. I also thought we were unselfish and all the guys kind of fed off of each other."

Leland King II made all three of his three-point attempts and added 19 points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds. Jackson, a graduate transfer from Rice who was returning to the lineup after missing the first three regular season games with an injury, had 16 points, five assists and three steals. He made 3-of-7 three-point attempts.

"Marcus really gives us another dimension, another guy who can really shoot the ball and get us assists," Pasternack said. "It's really helpful for our team to have him back."

Gabe Vincent scored a season-high 14 and tied his career-high with eight assists, and Canty added 13 points to put all five starters in double-figures.

"The big thing about us is that we can all score," Heidegger said of the starting five. "Having Marcus back, his ability to score and get into the lane and distribute is huge for us because it takes a load off other guys like myself and Gabe and Leland, who usually did the brunt of the scoring."

The game marked the third time in four games this season that Heidegger, a sophomore, scored 20 or more points. He made 8-of-16 field goals overall, 4-of-9 from three-point range, and all four of his free throws. In addition he had four assists and three steals.

"All the credit goes to him, he's matured tremendously," Pasternack said of Heidegger. "He's only a sophomore. He's a spectacular basketball player. He's not just shooter. He can drive the ball, he's tough he's competitive. It doesn't matter if we're at Pittsburgh, at Texas A&M, at Pepperdine, at home — he's the same guy, and that's because he honors the process every day in practice. He does this in practice every single day."

The Gauchos played an exceptionally clean game with 19 assists and just six turnovers, only two of which came in the final 28 minutes. They also shot a season-best 52.4% overall and made 10-of-21 three-point attempts, 47.6%.  In fact, they had just two turnovers over the final 28 minutes. Pepperdine, on the other hand, had 20 turnovers, but also shot a sterling 53.6%, had 51 second half points and a 39-22 rebound advantage.

"Where we have to improve is defensively," Pasternack said. "We can't give up 50 points in a half and expect to beat anybody. We're not going to be able to outscore people every game. But I'm really proud of our guys, how hard they competed and finished this game off. They got close — within four points — and we just kept chugging along. I'm happy about that."

UCSB will play its final game in the Progressive Legends Classic on Tuesday afternoon when it takes on Montana, which defeated Oral Roberts in the first game on Monday. The game will tip-off at 5:00 p.m. at Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse.