SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A 19-5 run late broke open a tie game and carried UC Santa Barbara to a 65-56 win over visiting Cal Poly on Wednesday night in the Big West Conference opener for both teams.
The Gauchos (12-3 overall, 1-0 in Big West) and Mustangs (4-10, 0-1) were tied at 46 after a Donovan Fields three-point basket with 9:46 to play capped a 12-4 run.
UCSB's pivotal surge began when Max Heidegger scored his only basket of the game on a reverse layup. A pair of free throws by Devearl Ramsey, who finished with 19 points, stretched the lead to 50-46 with 8:53 remaining. After a driving layup by Ar'Mond Davis made it a 52-46 game, Ramsey made two more free throws to stretch the lead to 54-46 at the 7:22 park.
"We really responded when they tied the game," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "We did it with defense and rebounding, that's the way it is always done."
A Kuba Niziol three-point basket cut the lead back to 54-49, but Davis responded for the Gauchos with a three of his own to make it 57-49 with 6:19 on the clock. After a defensive stop, Ramsey found JaQuori McLaughlin with a pass and McLaughlin raced in for a slam dunk, two of his 16 points, and the score was 61-51 with 5:15 left.
A layup by Hank Hollingsworth cut the lead to 61-53, but baskets by Jarriesse Blackmon, Davis and Ramsey stretched it to a game-high 14 at 65-51. The Mustangs scored the final five points of the game.
Blackmon's basket gave him just four points, but he was still a factor in the game as he finished with seven rebounds, three assists, a pair of steals and a blocked shot.
"Jarriesse is our glue-guy," Pasternack said. "He doesn't have an ego and really doesn't need to take shots. He always rebounds hard on both ends of the floor and defends. That's what he brings to our team and that's very important."
Davis added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Gauchos, while Robinson Idehen had six points and a game-high eight boards, including four on the offensive end.
Fields led the Mustangs with 19 points but made just 7-of-21 field goal attempts. As a team, Cal Poly was limited to 37.7% overall and 28.0% from three-point range. UCSB hit just 40.0% overall and 33.3% from outside the arc. The Gauchos also won the rebounding battle, 45-35.
The win was Santa Barbara's fourth straight and its sixth in the last seven games. The 12-3 start is the program's best 15-game start since it went 14-1 in 1988-89. The Gauchos also improved to 8-0 at the Thunderdome. The game was played in front of a season-high crowd of 4,816.
UCSB will complete a five-game home stand on Saturday, Jan. 12 when it hosts UC Riverside in another Big West game. Tip-off at the Thunderdome is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.