Redshirt freshman Nick Jones scored a career-high 19 points in his first start and true freshman Branduinn Fullove added 13 points, five rebounds and five assists to lead the Gauchos to victory. The third freshman starter, point guard Jacoby Atako, scored four points, but had four assists and a pair of steals in the win.
Jones and Fullove were joined in double-figures by junior forward Mike Vukovich, who scored 16 points and grabbed a team-leading six rebounds, and senior guard LaRon Bryant, who scored ten points, had three assists and a pair of steals in only 16 minutes of action. The double-digit performance by Vukovich was his fifth in succession and over that span he is averaging 14.8 points per game.
While the final margin was 16 points, this was hardly an easy win for Santa Barbara. Loyola Marymount led by one at half, 38-37, and the game was tied with 10:03 remaining at 55-55. At that point, however, the Gauchos went on a 15-6 run to stretch the advantage to 70-61 with 5:52 to go. The lead never dipped below five after that and UCSB coasted to its third win of the season, snapping their three game losing streak in the process.
The Gauchos shot 52.5% for the game, easily their best mark of the season. After shooting 45.2% in the first half, UCSB nailed 18-of-30 shots in the second stanza, a glistening 60.0%. And, after making only 5-of-40 shots from three-point range in the previous two games, both losses, they hit a respectable 6-of-15 in the win over the Lions, 40.0%.
Sophomore point guard B.J. Ward, coming off the bench for the second straight game, played well, scoring seven points, passing off for four assists and coming up with a steal. Senior forward Juliano Jordani, coming off the bench for the first time this season, had eight points and five rebounds.
As a team, the Gauchos forced LMU into 23 turnovers. UCSB, on the other hand, had 25 assists as a team and only ten turnovers, easily a season-low. In addition, they had a season-high 11 steals to go with their season high 85 points.
The Gauchos, 3-7 on the year, will resume action on Thursday, January 4, when they open Big West play at the Thunderdome against Boise State. The game will tip-off at 7:00 p.m.