Heidegger Returns, Gauchos Overcome Rice in OT, 99-89

Max Heidegger (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Max Heidegger (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

HOUSTON – In a game marked by massive momentum swings and the return of junior guard Max Heidegger, UC Santa Barbara claimed a 99-89 overtime win at Rice University on Saturday afternoon. 

The Gauchos (8-2), who led by as many as 12 points and trailed by the same margin, enjoyed the final momentum switch, outscoring the Owls (4-7) 22-12 in the overtime to secure their seventh win in the last eight games. UCSB made 5-of-6 field goals, including a pair of three-pointers, and all 10 of its free throws in the overtime period to claim the 10-point victory. 

"We showed resilience today," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "As a team, we had to overcome some adversity and we showed that we can." 

Heidegger, who averaged 19.1 points in 2017-18 and was named All-Big West Conference and All-District, made his first appearance of the season after missing nine games with a concussion. He tied JaQuori McLaughlin for team-high honors with 22 points, including six in the overtime period.

"Max is an amazing player," Pasternack said. "He is so competitive and tough. Even without being in great game-shape yet, he was able to give us some great minutes." 

Heidegger played 29 minutes in his return. He was 6-for-16 from the field, made a pair of three-point baskets and 8-of-9 from the free throw line.

McLaughlin had his best game of the season, making 6-of-8 three-point attempts, including a pair as the Gauchos jumped made their first four and jumped out to a 12-0 lead just three minutes into the game. He also had six rebounds, four assists and a steal before fouling out in the opening minute of the overtime period. 

Devearl Ramsey and Ar'Mond Davis each made one of UCSB's early threes during the 12-0 run. Ramsey gave his team a third player over 20 points as he scored a career-high 21. The sophomore transfer from Nevada was perfect 3-for-3 from the field, including two of his career-high five three-point buckets, in the overtime.

"I felt good the whole game, but I felt really good in the overtime," Ramsey said. "That was big for us to give up a lead and then come back and win on the road. I'm proud of our guys."

After UCSB jumped out to its 12-0 lead early, Rice went on a 31-7 run to turn the tables and take a 31-19 lead. But the Gauchos bounced back and when Heidegger made three free throws after being fouled attempting a triple with 0.1 second left in the first half, the Owl's lead was down to 39-32 at halftime. 

The Gauchos extended their run to 10-0 by scoring the first seven points of the second half, tying the score at 39 apiece. Following a Rice basket, Heidegger made back-to-back threes to give his team a 45-41 lead with 15:38 left in the game.

Santa Barbara extended its lead as high as nine at 60-51 on a three-pointer by McLaughlin with 10:41 on the clock, but the Owls wouldn't go away and closed the game on a 9-2 run, including the final two on free throws by Chris Mullins, to tie the score at 77. A driving lay-up attempt by Heidegger with four second left in the game was no good and the game went to overtime. 

UCSB had five players in double-figures for the second time this season. In addition to the trio of backcourt players who each scored 20+, freshman Amadou Sow made all six of his field goal attempts and finished with 12 points. Davis added 10, to go along with six rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. 

Jarriesse Blackmon finished with just six points, but he added a career four steals and made all four of his free throws in the overtime to help secure the win. 

As a team, UCSB made 23-of-24 free throw attempts, 95.8%, the program's sixth highest percentage in a single game and the highest when it was not a perfect 100%. The Gauchos also made a season-high 14 three-pointers and shot 48.3% from outside the arc. They also finished 52.5% overall for the game after making just 42.3% in the first half. 

Rice was led by Robert Martin who scored a game-high 24 points. Chris Mullins added 21. As a team, the Owls killed themselves from the free throw line making just 18-of-34, 52.9%, including three of their first 13. The home team did win the rebounding battle, 40-28, and had 17 offensive caroms. 

The Gauchos will play at Nebraska-Omaha on Wednesday, Dec. 19 for a 5:00 p.m. (PST) game. Following the game against the Mavericks, UCSB will play five consecutive home games beginning with a Saturday, Dec. 22 afternoon game at the Thunderdome against Idaho State.