BOISE, Idaho – Behind 48-39 with 14:21 left in its game at Idaho on Saturday, UC Santa Barbara went on a devastating 23-2 run over a 10-minute span to take a commanding 62-50 lead en route to a 66-55 win in the final game of the Vandal Holiday Hoop Classic.
The Gauchos (5-1), who have won four consecutive games and are off to their best start since 2007-08 when they also opened at 5-1, struggled offensively but stayed in the game with their defense, setting the stage for the decisive rally.
"Our defense kept us in the game all night, especially in the second half," said UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack. "I thought our second half defense was the best we've played this year."
The Vandals (1-4) shot just 33.3% overall and 20.8% from three-point range, but in the final 20 minutes they made just 6-of-24 field goal attempts, 25.0%, and 1-for-11 from beyond the three-point arc, 9.1%. During UCSB's 23-2 run, they missed 13 out of 14 shots.
"We believed that if we kept playing hard and smart on the defensive end that we would turn things," said Ar'Mond Davis, who scored a team-high 18 points for the Gauchos. "That's exactly what happened."
In addition to his offensive performance, Davis was a key part of his team's defensive effort.
"When he came here, Ar'Mond was considered a three-point shooter," Pasternack said. "I think he's showing what type of all-around player he is. He can score in a lot of ways and, as we saw tonight, he can really defend."
UCSB's 23-2 stretch started innocently enough with JaQuori McLaughlin made a pair of free throws with 13:42 on the clock. It ended when Jarriesse Blackmon hit a hanging jumper from the the middle of the key at the 2:59 mark. McLaughlin and Blackmon each had four points during the stretch while Davis had six, Amadou Sow scored five and Devearl Ramsey added four.
Sow scored three of his points with 7:48 to play when he hit a jump hook, was fouled and proceeded to make the free throw. After a slow start, he finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. He also made all five of his free throw attempts.
"Amadou really grew up tonight," Pasternack said. "He played really well down the stretch and that was a very big three-point play. We've changed his free throws and it is really starting to pay dividends."
Blackmon had another outstanding all-around game for UCSB. He produced his first career double-double with career-highs of 12 points and 10 rebounds. One night earlier, he had 10 points, nine rebounds and career-highs with three blocked shots and three assists.''
"Coach (Pasternack) has been after me about getting over that hump and getting my first double-double," Blackmon said. "I came close last night and tonight I broke through. It feels great and it feels especially good because it came in a win."
Davis nearly had a double-double as well, finishing with nine rebounds to go with his 18 points and two steals. Despite struggling with his shooting, McLaughlin had 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. Ramsey had six points, five rebounds, four assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
As a team, the Gauchos made just 36.7% of their field goal attempts and hit a mere 1-for-12 from outside the three-point arc, 8.3%. They did easily win the rebound battle, 47-30, and they had a season-high 19 offensive rebounds. In addition, after making just 61.9% of their free throws in a win over Portland State on Friday, they were 21-of-24 against Idaho, 87.5%.
The Vandals were led by Trevon Allen who scored 19 points and added eight rebounds. Scott Blakney chipped in 10 points and six boards. Freshman Cameron Tyson, who came into the game averaging 19.8 points per game and shooting 58.3% from three-point range (21-of-36), was held to just seven points and 1-for-4 from outside the arc.
UCSB returns home for a game against Sacramento State on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.