Calvin Wishart lifted the UCSB men’s basketball team with an electric first half shooting performance off the bench and the Gauchos pulled away in the second half to defeat Pepperdine 86-74 on Friday night at the Thunderdome.
UCSB started slow and turned the the ball over on its first three possessions of the game to dig an early hole, but midway through the first half Wishart caught fire on his way to 23 first half points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field, including four three-pointers and 9-for-9 shooting from the free-throw line. The scoring outburst kept the Gauchos afloat as the two teams headed into the locker room at halftime knotted at 41-41.
“Coming off the bench and being able to give a spark is always a good thing,” Wishart said. “I’ve done it before so I’m good with it. I like being able to see the flow of the game and then come off the bench and give that spark.”
Without Wishart’s perfect shooting the Gauchos would have been staring at a significant deficit in the first half as they wracked up 11 turnovers and were outrebounded 16-13, but the tables turned after the break as Miles Norris and Amadou Sow controlled the boards in the second half and the rest of the team came alive.
“It’s just playing hard. We came out slow in the first half. I got into a little bit of foul trouble. I just wanted to come out in the second half, play hard and do whatever I had to do to get the team the win,” said Norris, who grabbed six of his nine rebounds and scored ten of his 13 points in the second half. “The team’s mindset is just to get stops, get rebounds and run, that’s what we’re best at.”
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After a balanced second half, UCSB came away with five players who finished with double digit scoring, including 12 points from Ajare Sanni, eleven points from Amadou Sow and ten points from Josh Pierre-Louis.
A 15-2 run by the Gauchos that began with a Sow three-pointer at the 17:45 mark of the second half and concluded with an Ajare Sanni fast break layup with 14:54 remaining turned a 46-43 UCSB deficit to a 58-48 UCSB lead.
“We had five guys in double figures. If Amadou (Sow) gets 20 something points and nobody else scores we’re not beating anybody,” said UCSB coach Joe Pasternack. “We need to have balanced scoring.”
After his red-hot first half Wishart did not score in the second half. He missed his only shot of the second half, a floater that rimmed out with just under two minutes to play.
“If I’m going out and forcing things because I have a hot first half that is going to undermine our team,” Wishart said. “They’re going to suction to me now and other guys get open, that’s how it benefits us.”
A loss to UT Arlington on Monday snapped a 20-game home winning streak for UCSB. The Gauchos (4-2) will host Cal Lutheran on Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.