BOISE, Idaho – Through the first 18 minutes of the first game at the Vandal Holiday Hoops Showcase Portland State's full court trapping defense seemed to flummox UC Santa Barbara, but an Ar'Mond Davis three-point baskets with 1:19 left in the first half gave the Gauchos a 36-34 lead and they never fell behind again, winning 76-69.
UCSB (4-1) won its third consecutive game while the Vikings (2-2) were denied a three-game winning streak.
"They are so tough to play against because of the defense they come at you with," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "For most of the first half they took us out of our rhythm. Ar'Mond's three near the end of the half was big and I think it helped open things up a little for us."
Davis' three followed by a Jarriesse Blackmon put-back with one second left in the first half, giving the Gauchos a 38-34 lead at the break.
Blackmon opened the scoring in the second half with layup off a nice feed from Devearl Ramsey. Davis then made a jumper from the left side and fed Robinson Idehen with an alley-oop pass that ended in a resounding slam dunk to complete an 11-0 run and give UCSB a 44-34 lead with 15:03 remaining.
"I've felt better and more confident in the last two games," said Davis, who 20 points on the heels of a 22-point effort on Nov. 17 against Montana State. "We have a lot of guys who can score and we are so close. Tonight it was my turn, but tomorrow it may be someone else."
Brendan Rumel made a short jumper for Portland State's first second half points at the 14:35 mark, but another Idehen slam on an alley-oop from Blackmon and a layup by Zack Moore pushed the advantage to 48-36 with 13:36 left.
Following a free throw by Rumel, JaQuori McLaughlin found Idehen for another alley-oop slam dunk to make it 50-37, the biggest lead of the game with 13:11 remaining.
The advantage hovered between nine and 12 over the next five minutes, but with the score 59-48 the Vikings went on a 6-0 run the was capped by a Holland Woods jump shot, cutting the UCSB lead to 59-54 with 6:07 to play.
"Give them a lot of credit to come back like that," Pasternack said. "I was happy we were able to respond and close the game out."
After the lead was carved to five, the Gauchos responded with an 11-4 run to assume a 70-58 edge with 2:37 on the clock. The final six points of that stretch came on old school three-point plays by Davis and McLaughlin.
"The three-point plays by Ar'Mond and JaQuori were huge," Pasternack said. "They completely switched the momentum back."
Woods made three free throws with just a second remaining to cut a 10-point lead to the final 76-69.
Sékou Touré (career-high 11), Blackmon (10) and McLaughlin (10) joined Davis in double-figures. Blackmon added a career-high nine rebounds while also tying his career-highs for blocked shots (3), assists (3) and steals (2). Davis added six rebounds and two assists. Although McLaughlin went just 3-of-9 from the field, he had a game-high five assists and two steals.
As a team, UCSB shot 46.2% overall but made just 2-for-16 from three-point range, 12.5%. Portland State struggled even more mightily as it was 22-for-62 overall, 35.5%, but a mere 3-for-23 from three-point territory, 13.0%.
Another key for the Gauchos was the fact that they attempted 42 free throws, the most the program has taken since a 45-free throw attempt game at Cal Poly on Feb. 19, 2005. They made just 26 of the attempts, 61.9%, the the 26 were four more than the Vikings made.
Portland State was led by Michael Nuga who had 13 points. Woods, Rashaad Goolsby and Jamie Orme each tallied 11 points.
UCSB will complete play in the Vandal Holiday Hoops Classic on Saturday evening at CenturyLink Arena in Boise when they play the host University of Idaho in a game scheduled to tip-off at 6:00 p.m. (PST). The pregame show on UCSBgauchos.com will begin 15 minutes prior to tip.