SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Freshman Amadou Sow scored a career-high 21 points and sophomore JaQuori McLaughlin tallied 18, including 14 in the second half, as UC Santa Barbara overcame a 10-point deficit and handed visiting University of San Francisco just its second loss of the season, 73-71 on Saturday night.
Devearl Ramsey, another sophomore who finished with 14 points, made his only three-pointer of the game with 1:48 to play, giving UCSB (10-3) the lead for good. After a pair of free throws by the Dons (12-2) Frankie Ferrari, carved the lead to 66-65, McLaughlin made his third triple of the half to push the advantage to 69-65 with 1:07 on the clock.
The Gauchos did not make a three-pointer in the first half, missing on all four attempts. In the second half, they were 5-for-9 with McLaughlin going 3-for-4.
"I've never known a player who is more comfortable taking big shots than JaQuori," said UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack. "He hit some big, big, shots tonight and we needed every one of them. They (USF) are a top-25 team, but he matches up with them. He does so much for us, on both ends of the court."
Even after McLaughlin's final three, USF wasn't done. Ferrari nailed a jumper to make it a 69-67 Gaucho lead, but McLaughlin responded with an acrobatic lay-up, driving through a trio of defenders and giving his team a 71-67 advantage.
The Dons missed their next two shots before Ferrari scored on a lay-up with nine seconds left, narrowing the gap to 71-69.
UCSB got the ball into McLaughlin, who was intentionally fouled. He made 1-of-2 free throws to extend the lead to 72-69, but his second attempt missed and was rebounded by USF's Charles Minlend. Ferrari was fouled on the other end and made a pair of free throws to cut the gap to 72-71 with 0:04 on the clock.
The Gauchos got the ball in to Ramsey who was fouled immediately. He made the first of the two free throws, extending the advantage to 73-71. He missed the second charity attempt, but Sékou Touré snuck in for the rebound, giving Santa Barbara another possession.
"Sékou does that in practice every day," Pasternack said. "For the last three months, he rebounds like crazy, and for him to get a big one tonight is not surprising. He is a great rebounder and he really works at it."
UCSB had opportunities to push the lead beyond two points but couldn't hit free throws down the stretch.
San Francisco led by as many as 10 points twice in the first half, but led by Sow, who had 18 of his 21 points in the first 20 minutes, the Gauchos climbed all the way back to tie the score before settling for a one-point halftime deficit, 39-38, setting the stage for the exciting ending.
In addition to his career-high 21 points, Sow added nine rebounds and a blocked shot. Jarriesse Blackmon had seven points and three blocks. Freshman Jay Nagle played 17 minutes and scored just one point, but he added a career-high seven rebounds. Touré added six boards. Ramsey passed off for a game-high six assists. McLaughlin added five assists.
As a team, UCSB shot a solid 49.0% from the field while holding the Dons to 22-of-61, 36.1%. USF also struggled from three-point range, making just 5-of-23, 21.7%.
The Gauchos will play their first game of 2019 when they host Bethesda University on Wednesday, Jan. 2 at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.