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UC Santa Barbara loses a heartbreaker to Creighton

It was right there for the Gauchos.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-UC Santa Barbara at Creighton Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

The Gauchos lost a heartbreaker at the buzzer against No. 5 Creighton.

No. 12 UC Santa Barbara trailed by one with 16 seconds left, and an upset very much on the table. Star JaQuori McLaughlin had the ball at the wing ready to shoot, but Creighton sent two defenders at McLaughlin. McLaughlin made the right pass between two defenders to an open Amadou Sow in the paint. Sow drove left with an opportunity at the basket, on to see a lay-up attempt rim out and the Gauchos tourney run end.

It was a disappointing end to a historic season, but fourth-year coach Joe Pasternak still had positive things to say.

“I thought they had key offensive rebounds that killed us, especially Bishop’s offensive rebounds at the end,” he said after the game. “Creighton was able to score 11 points in the last four minutes and a half. We held Creighton to 29 points in the second half and we were able to give ourselves a chance. That game was right there for us. But the game won’t define our season. The guys did some amazing job all year with Covid, and it was an unbelievably historic season for UCSB.”

Pasternak should be proud of his team. UCSB battled Creighton for 40 minutes withstanding the Blue Jays’ defense and timely three point shooting. The Gauchos came out with their heads on fire starting the game on a 16-8 run. McLaughlin started out hot, scoring seven points in the first seven minutes. But the Bluejays made their adjustments by sending a double team at every McLaughlin ball screen.

After that early eight-point lead, UCSB went into the half down 2 after an 11-2 Blue Jay run that ended the half.

Creighton was able to build a 10-point lead after UCSB started the second half cold, missing seven out of their first 10 shots. However, UCSB made a run on their own that started on the defensive end. A Miles Norris block led to a transition three to get the Gauchos back in the game. UCSB forced Creighton on a 5:24 scoring drought and the Gauchos went on a 13-2 run to take a 50-49 lead with under 10 minutes the go.

UCSB used off-ball screens to get McLaughlin more involved. McLaughlin had five points during that stretch and finished the game with 13 points. The Gauchos got the stops but they couldn’t get the clutch basket to pull off the upset.

Creighton will play the winner of Ohio and Virginia on Monday.