SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – T.J. Shorts II scored 21 points, including 13 in the second half, as UC Davis handed UC Santa Barbara just its second home loss of the season, 61-57 on Saturday night.
The Gauchos (17-6 overall, 6-3 in Big West) are now 10-2 at the Thunderdome while the Aggies (8-14, 4-4) won their third consecutive game.
"He was the Player of the Year in the conference last year and he's still one of the best," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "They are the defending league champions and they're playing like that now."
Shorts made 8-of-13 field goals overall and seemed to get into the lane, off the dribble at will and when he didn't score, he was finding open teammates for three-points baskets. His biggest assist came with the score tied at 53 at just 1:24 remaining when he penetrated, drew the defense and then kicked it out to Joe Mooney for a long three from above the top of the key.
JaQuori McLaughlin made a pair of free throws for UCSB to make it a 56-55 game, but Shorts made four consecutive free throw attempts in the final 28 seconds to push the lead to 60-55. Devearl Ramsey made 2-of-3 free throws with 1.7 seconds left, but by then it was too late.
The Gauchos had their biggest lead of the game at 17-10, but when Max Heidegger made his only three-pointer of the game at the 10:42 mark of the game, but the Aggies closed the first half with a 21-8 run to claim a 31-25 halftime lead.
UCSB began the second half with an 9-2 run that include a three-pointer and a driving layup by McLaughlin and a three-point play by Ar'Mond Davis to take a 34-33 lead, but the advantage was short-lived as A.J. John made a three-pointer to give Davis a 36-34 edge at the 15:06 mark.
The Gauchos took their biggest lead of the second half when Amadou Sow capped a 7-0 run to give them a 43-38 advantage with 10:33 left, but again the Aggies responded, going on an 8-0 surge to reclaim the lead at 46-43 on a three-point play by Shorts with 7:54 on the clock.
Santa Barbara would lead just two more times the rest of the way. Its final edge came on a pair of Heidegger free throws to make it 51-50 with 3:33 left, setting the stage for Davis' final push.
Shorts led all scorers with his 21 points while Mooney chipped in 13. Heidegger paced the Gauchos with 11 points. He also added five assists and no turnovers. McLaughlin added 10 points while Davis had nine. Sow had eight points and a game-high seven rebounds.
UCSB struggled with its shooting, particularly from long distance where it made just 3-for-15 three-point attempts, 20.0%. Overall, its field goal percentage was just 39.2%. The Aggies hit 43.1% of their shots, including 6-of-18 from three-point land, 33.3%. The Gauchos won the rebound battle, 37-25 and had six players with at least four.
UCSB travels to UC Riverside on Thursday, Feb. 14 for a 7:00 p.m. game against the Highlanders. The game will be carried on ESPN3.