LAS VEGAS, Nevada. - Josh Pierre-Louis scored a career-high 24 points and JaQuori McLaughlin had 22, including key baskets and free throws down the stretch, as No. 1 seeded UC Santa Barbara held off No. 9 Long Beach State in quarterfinal game at the Big West Tournament on Thursday at the Michelob ULTRA Arena.
The Gauchos (20-4), who won for the 16th time in their last 17 games, also got 20 points and nine rebounds from Amadou Sow in the team's first game against Long Beach (6-12) since February of 2020. They have now won 20 games in four consecutive seasons for the first time in program history.
Pierre-Louis sparked UCSB in the first half, scoring 14 of his points and making all five of his field goal attempts, including a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range.
"Josh was terrific," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "He's an amazing athlete and basketball player. He really injected energy into us today, as he always does when he comes into games. He hit three huge threes, but I thought he was also good defensively."
Led by Pierre-Louis and Sow, who scored 10 of his points in the first 20 minutes, the Gauchos took a 44-35 lead at halftime.
The lead was pushed to 53-41 when McLaughlin converted a short jumper after a turnover, but Long Beach went on an 8-2 run to capped by a step-back jumper from Jordan Roberts, cutting the lead to 55-49 at the 14:16 mark.
UCSB responded as Pierre-Louis and Sow combined for 10 points during a 14-3 run that stretched the lead to 69-52 with 10:26 remaining in the game.
But Long Beach started chipping away and had the lead down to 75-69 with 5:27 on the clock when Colin Slater made a turnaround in the lane after a Gaucho turnover.
Pierre-Louis scored the game's next four points, the first on a driving layup in traffic and the second on a breakaway after a LBSU turnover, making it an 81-71 game with 3:57 left.
Again, Long Beach wasn't finished. A three-pointer by Slater and a driving layup by Isaiah Washington carved the gap to 81-76 at 2:47 on the clock. Following a timeout, Santa Barbara got the ball inside to Sow, who made a pair of free throws, extending the lead back to 83-76 with 2:11 to play.
Just five second later, Jadon Jones responded with a three-pointer from deep in the left corner to pull his team within 83-79. On the other end, McLaughlin made a driving layup in traffic and the lead was back to 85-79 at the 1:42 mark.
Washington was fouled by Pierre-Louis and drained both free throws to make it an 85-81 game, but McLaughlin came through again, making an acrobatic layup while absorbing contact and drawing a foul. He made the free throw to stretch the lead to 88-81 with 1:19 left.
Just eight second later, Washington was scoring on another layup and it was 88-83, but McLaughlin was fouled on the other end and hit two more free throws to make it a 90-83 at the 1:07 mark. Washington drove in for another layup at 0:52, making the score 90-85.
After McLaughlin made 1-of-2 free throws after he was fouled at 0:43, Chance Hunter scored on a fast break at 0:35, making it a 91-87 score.
At that point, there was a huge turn of events. As the Gauchos were bringing the ball up the court, McLaughlin passed the ball to Sanni along the left sideline. As he went up to retrieve the ball, Washington extended his arms attempting the interception, but as he did so his left hand smashed into Sanni's face, sending the UCSB guard sprawling to the floor.
The officials determined that the foul was flagrant. Sanni, who finished with 11 points, made both free throws and the Gauchos capitalized, after they were awarded possession of the ball, with a slam dunk by Sow, taking a 95-87 lead, and that was the final.
The 95-point offensive explosion by Santa Barbara set a program record for points in a Big West Tournament game. As a team, the Gauchos made 31-of-62 field goal attempts, 50.0%. They also hit seven three-point baskets, six of them coming in the first half, but they outscored Long Beach 26-9 from the free throw line and that was a major difference in the game.
Long Beach was led by Slater who finished with 20 points. Jones added 18, Hunter had 16, and Roberts and Washington each added 13.
The Gauchos will play No. 4 UC Davis, a 58-56 winner over No. 5 Cal State Bakersfield, in a semifinal game of the Big West Tournament at 6:00 p.m. on Friday evening at the Michelob ULTRA Arena in the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Article courtesy of UCSB Athletics.