The first matchup between the UCSB and Westmont men’s basketball teams since 2011 energized the Thunderdome and created a festive environment Thursday night.
Westmont came into the game with a perfect 14-0 record and recognized a golden opportunity to make a statement against the Division 1 program in its own backyard, but the bigger, stronger Gauchos were up to the challenge and pulled away for a 87-66 victory.
UCSB now boasts a 44-5 all-time record against Westmont.
“I was really proud of our guys and how we prepared for the game. They really honored the process the last two days,” said UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack. “We could have played anybody, but I thought playing Westmont, such a well-coached team, hard playing team, dangerous three-point shooting team was the best game for us to schedule to prepare for conference.”
Jaquori McLaughlin and Amadou Sow combined for 42 points to spearhead the UCSB offense. The Warriors didn’t have any players over 6’7” available so the Gauchos’ natural inclination to play inside out was the perfect recipe for success.
Westmont shot well from 3-point range in the early stages of the first half to stay close. A 3-pointer by Justin Bessard at the 12:16 mark of the first half cut the UCSB lead to 18-14. Bessard finished with a game-high 27 points, including 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range.
The Warriors also received an outstanding performance from Abram Carrasco, who contributed 16 points and four assists.
“I think those guys are big time competitors and the stage wasn’t too big for them,” said Westmont coach John Moore of Bessard and Carrasco. “They played very comfortably.
UCSB held a 23-9 rebounding advantage in the first half and used a 9-0 run beginning with a Brandon Cyrus layup with 9:26 remaining in the first half and concluding with a McLaughlin free throw with 5:10 remaining in the first half to extend the lead to 33-18.
In the second half, Westmont slowly chipped away at the UCSB lead and eventually cut its deficit to 58-48 on a Bessard 3-pointer with 13:11 remaining, but that’s as close as the score would get.
UCSB responded with a 13-2 run capped off by a Devearl Ramsey fast-break layup extending the lead to 71-50.
The Gauchos are now 11-4 going into their Big West Conference opener at Cal Poly on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Westmont will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season at Life Pacific of San Dimas on Saturday.