Gauchos Roll to Fifth Straight Win, 67-57 Over San Diego

Leland King II (Photo by David Hague)
Leland King II (Photo by David Hague)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Max Heidegger scored 21 points, Leland King II recorded his third consecutive double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds and UC Santa Barbara used a stingy defense to secure its fifth straight win, a 67-57 decision over visiting University of San Diego on Saturday night. 

The Gauchos (6-2) limited the Toreros (5-2) to 36.2% from the field as they equaled their win total from all of last season. 

"This was the best two halves of defense we've played this year," said first-year head coach Joe Pasternack. "We've really been emphasizing defense and rebounding the last few days and I thought our guys responded tonight." 

Both teams were sluggish to start the game as UCSB missed seven of its first eight shots and San Diego missed six of its first seven. But the Gauchos heated-up late, ending the first half on a 22-10 run over the final 8:25 to take a 32-25 lead at the break.

The Toreros turned the tables at the outset of the second half with a 7-0 surge to pull even at 32. After Jalen Canty gave UCSB the lead back at 34-32, Isaiah Pineiro hit a short jumper, was fouled and made the free throw to give San Diego its last lead of the game, a 35-34 with 16:01 remaining. 

But the Gauchos responded again with a 15-4 rally over the next seven minutes, and when Marcus Jackson made a deep three-pointer from above the top of the key, they had their biggest lead of the game, 49-39 with 9:16 to play.

USD matched Santa Barbara's response with a 9-0 rally of its own. Pineiro made three straight buckets and then Olin Carter III made a three-pointer at the 7:09 mark to pull his team back within 49-48. 

That's when Heidegger took over, sandwiching a pair of three-pointers around a Pineiro turnover to push the UCSB lead back to 55-48 with 6:06 left in the game. The Toreros got within four on two more occasions, but the Gauchos responded each time. 

"Those were big shots by Heidegger," Pasternack said. "He was 3-for-7 from the free throw line and I joked with him that he was letting the team down, but those threes were huge." 

For his part, King made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to help secure the win. Gabe Vincent also hit 3-of-4 and Maxwell Kupchak made 1-of-2. 

"Like I've said before, I want to be taking the shots in those situations," King said. "Free throws or whatever, I'm comfortable doing that." 

With his 18 points and 12 boards, King became the first Gaucho player to record three straight double-doubles since Alan Williams did so during the 2014-15 season. The graduate transfer from Nevada added three steals to his stat line. 

Heidegger added four assists, while Jackson had 12 points, four assists and three steals for UCSB. Canty finished with seven points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots despite battling foul trouble. Pasternack also said that Jackson's defense was pivotal. 

"Marcus' defense on the ball, especially early, was outstanding," Pasternack said. "That was a key to our defensive effort overall."

As a team, the Gauchos forced USD into 17 turnovers and also won the rebound battle, 44-39. The Toreros were also their own worst enemy as they were a dismal 9-for-23 from the free throw line, 39.1%. 

UCSB will remain at home for one more game before hitting the road again. The Gauchos host Nebraska-Omaha on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for that and all games are available online by clicking here.