UT Arlington came into a matchup against UCSB Monday night winless against Division 1 competition in five tries this season but exited the Thunderdome with a stunning 70-62 victory over the Gauchos.

Missed free throws, untimely turnovers, and a lack of energy throughout doomed UCSB. The loss serves as a significant speed bump in what otherwise can be considered a strong start to the 2021-22 season.

“You can’t expect to win; you have to do it on the court, and we didn’t do it tonight. We have to regroup, get better, and learn from this,” said UCSB coach Joe Pasternack. “That’s what non-conference is for. It was great to play a team like this, as athletic as they are, to prepare us for conference, because that is what we are playing for.”

Despite their 1-5 record coming into the game, the visiting Mavericks were battle-hardened, having played four teams that reached the NCAA tournament last season in their first six games.

Hard-nosed defense by UT Arlington at the point of attack and an athletic rotation of players in the front court seemed to bother UCSB and led to 18 turnovers, but the majority of the Gauchos’ miscues were self-inflicted, including a mind-boggling 11-of-22 shooting night from the free throw line.

2 Josh Pierre-Louis attempts an acrobatic layup around the outstretched arm of #0 Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu. | Credit: Gary Kim

“[UT Arlington] has played four NCAA tournament teams, and I knew it was going to be a tough challenge for us, but we did not compete like we can compete,” Pasternack said. “We gave up 11 offensive rebounds, we had 18 turnovers, and 11-of-22 from the free throw line. We didn’t compete hard enough to win.”

The first half went back and forth as UT Arlington increased its lead to 29-22 on a three-point play by David Azore with 4:13 remaining in the first half. UCSB chipped away at the deficit, and two Amadou Sow free throws just before halftime cut the deficit to 33-31 going into the break.

The Gauchos struggled in the first half of their previous game against Arkansas at Pine Bluff but turned a 38-36 halftime lead into an 86-58 win. That was never going to be the case against UT Arlington, as the Mavericks opened the second half on a 7-0 run.

UCSB did not score its first points of the second half until a layup by Calvin Wishart at the 16-minute mark that cut the deficit to 40-33. The Mavericks kept UCSB at arm’s length and extended their lead to 63-50 on an offensive rebound and put-back by Montez Young Jr. with 4:38 remaining in the game.

With time slipping away, the Gauchos mounted an 8-0 run that cut the deficit to 63-58 when Miles Norris tapped in a Josh Pierre-Louis layup attempt in transition with 1:39 remaining.

UCSB forced a UT Arlington miss on defense and got the ball back, but Amadou Sow dribbled the ball off his foot with under a minute to play and the Gauchos fouled Azore at the other end as the comeback fizzled.

“It’s not the end of the world. We say to our team, and I’m going to tell them this, ‘Everything is not as bad as it seems, and everything is not as good as it seems,'” Pasternack said. “We’ve had a lot of good in this program, and I think people, our players included, just expect to show up and win because we have Santa Barbara on our jerseys, and that’s just not the case, so hopefully this will wake everybody up.”

Sow finished with a game-high 23 points and seven rebounds. Robinson Idehen and Wishart reached double figures in scoring with 11 and 10 points respectively.

The Gauchos (3-2 overall) will host Pepperdine on Friday, December 3, at 7 p.m.

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