SACRAMENTO -- Five Gauchos scored in double figures, led by Max Heidegger's game-high 23 points, as UC Santa Barbara defeated Sacramento State, 82-72, on Saturday evening at the Nest.
Two big factors in the game were a 13-2 UCSB run to close the first half, and the Gauchos had nearly a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (19 assists, five turnovers). UC Santa Barbara held a 17-7 advantage in points off turnovers, with four of those Hornet miscues resulting in easy fast break buckets for the Gauchos.
The loss came to a UC Santa Barbara team that improved to 10-3 and is off to its best start in 10 years. Sacramento State (3-10) lost at home for the first time this season, and had its four-game home winning streak snapped, a stretch which stretched back to last year. The Hornets are still 55-19 inside the Nest dating back to the 2012-13 season.
Tonight marked the third game in five days for the Hornets, which included a 66-61 victory over CSUN on Tuesday inside the Nest, and an 80-75 loss to Portland on Thursday at the Golden 1 Center. It also marked the team's final non-conference game of the season as Sacramento State opens Big Sky Conference play on Saturday, Dec. 30, at home vs. Portland State at 7:05 p.m. Last year's Hornet squad also began the year 3-10 before finishing 13-18 overall and 9-9 in the Big Sky.
UC Santa Barbara, which has now won nine of its last 10 games, has three wins over Big Sky teams this season, including an 80-73 neutral court win over Montana and a 91-69 road win at Montana State. The Gauchos' only three losses this season have come against Power Five conference schools.
In an entertaining game, both teams shot well from beyond the arc as the Hornets buried a season-high 10 3-pointers, shooting a proficient 48 percent (10-21) from long range. The Gauchos, who entered the game shooting 40 percent from deep, converted on 46 percent of their 3-point attempts (11-24). Overall, UC Santa Barbara shot 47 percent (32-68) from the floor while the Hornets shot 44 percent (27-61).
Neither team led by more than six points during the first 18 minutes of the game. However, after a layup from Joshua Patton had the Hornets trailing, 31-30, with 3:58 left in the first half, UC Santa Barbara ripped off a 13-2 run to take a 44-32 lead into halftime. The Hornets would get no closer than within nine points of the Gaucho lead the entire second half. UC Santa Barbara led by as many as 18 points, and every time Sacramento State started to make a run, the Gauchos would answer with a 3-pointer.
The Hornets also had 19 assists and a relatively low amount of turnovers (10), but UCSB made Sacramento State pay dearly for those miscues. The Hornets also failed to register a fast break point for just the second time all season. Sacramento State held a large advantage in points off the bench (26-8), but was outrebounded by a 40-33 margin. All five UCSB starters scored at least 11 points, and the fivesome combined for 74 of the team's 82 points.
For Sacramento State, senior co-captain Justin Strings scored 14 second-half points on the way to 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists. The forward shot 8-of-17 from the field and has now scored in double figures in 33 straight games. Sophomore Joshua Patton had 15 points, four blocks and both of Sacramento State's steals. Guard Jordan Tolbert continued his torrid pace from long range as the junior scored 16 points off the bench on 4-for-6 shooting from the 3-point line. Tolbert, the Big Sky's leader in 3-point field goal percentage, is now shooting a very healthy .533 (24-45) from long range this season. He is 9-for-13 from distance spanning the last three games.
Guards Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa and Kevin Hicks both had seven points and a pair of rebounds, freshman Bryce Fowler had five points and a team-high five assists, and Jiday Ugbaja added three points, four assists and three rebounds in 15 minutes. Ugbaja, who missed the first 10 games of the season with a leg injury, played five minutes in his first game back vs. CSUN on Tuesday, followed by seven minutes vs. Portland on Thursday and 15 minutes tonight. Jeff Wu added four assists and zero turnovers in 18 minutes.
Heidegger's 23 points came on 9-of-16 shooting from the field and 4-for-9 from distance. He was joined in double figures by Jalen Canty (15 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks), Marcus Jackson (13 points, 8 assists), Gabe Vincent (12 points, 2-of-4 from distance) and Leland King II (11 points, 12 rebounds, 3-of-5 from deep). The Gauchos had just two turnovers in the first half, followed by three miscues in the second half.
Sacramento State's first Big Sky game will come against a Portland State squad that currently has a Big Sky-best 10-3 overall record. That includes a 106-81 thrashing of Cal in Berkeley on Thursday night. After the Portland State game, the Hornets hit the road for games at Idaho (Jan. 4) and Eastern Washington (Jan. 6).
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