ANAHEIM, Calif. – The first three Big West Conference quarterfinal games on Friday at Honda Center were decided by a combined seven points. UC Santa Barbara made sure the fourth game didn't have as much drama, posting a 75-53 win over Cal Poly.
The Gauchos (23-8) raced out to a convincing 45-18 halftime lead and never looked back as they tied the school record for wins in a season one year after setting a school record for losses in a season with 22.
"From the day Coach Joe got here, our goal has been to get to the point of playing for a league championship," said senior guard Gabe Vincent. "We've been very focused since the first practice together."
Leading 13-8, UCSB went on a 30-8 run to claim a commanding 43-16 lead as the half cam to an end. At one point during the stretch, the Mustangs (9-22) went 10:33 without a field goal.
"In the first half, that was the best defense we've played this season," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "I think we had a good game plan and really executed it."
The Gauchos were stifling in the first 20 minutes, holding Cal Poly to 5-of-21 from the field overall and 0-for-8 from three-point range. The Mustangs, who lead the Big West in three-point field goals made, finished the game 3-for-16 from outside the arc and just 14-of-51 overall, 27.5%
UCSB started the second half strong and when Christian Terrell made a three-pointer with 12:10 left, the lead had exploded to 60-29, but Cal Poly fought back with a 13-0 run to pull within 60-42 at the 7:55 mark.
The Gauchos ended a five minute and 41 second scoring drought when Ami Lakoju took a bullet pass from Leland King II and threw down a powerful slam dunk with 6:29 left in the game. After a defensive stop, King took a feed from Brandon Davis and calmly drained a three-pointer from above the key to make the score 65-42 at the 5:48 mark.
The Mustangs shaved the edge to 19 points one more time, but that was it.
"Our starters have played a lot of minutes this year," Pasternack said. "So it was good that we got contributions from a lot of guys and were able to cut back on our starters' minutes."
Gabe Vincent , Max Heidegger and Terrell each had a team-high 12 points. With 12 points, Vincent moved into 10th-place on UCSB's all-time scoring list with 1,430 points. His two three-point baskets also give him a school record 142 in his career, one more than his former teammate Michael Bryson."
"Until you told me, I didn't know," Vincent joked after a reporter informed him of the three-point record. "And Michael, if you're watching this, I'll be calling you in about 10 minutes."
Lakoju came off the bench to record the second double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jalen Canty had 10 points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes.
"I always want to be ready when called upon," Lakoju said. "It feels good to be there for my teammates."
The Gauchos hit 47.5 of their field goals, including a solid 10-of-22 performance from three-point range. They also won the rebounding battle, 43-27.
Second-seeded UCSB will play third-seeded UC Irvine at 9:00 p.m. on Friday in the second of two Big West Tournament semifinal games. The first game, between No. 1 UC Davis and No. 4 Cal State Fullerton will tip-off at 6:00 p.m. at Honda Center.