Santa Barbara to play Creighton in first round of NCAA tournament

UC Santa Barbara's JaQuori McLaughlin keeps the ball from the reach of UC Irvine's Jeron Artest.
UC Santa Barbara’s JaQuori McLaughlin keeps the ball from UC Irvine’s Jeron Artest during the Big West tournament championship game Saturday in Las Vegas. The Gauchos won 79-63.
(Ronda Churchill / Associated Press)

UC Santa Barbara, making its first appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament since 2011, will play Creighton in a first-round game in the West Region on Saturday in Indiana.

The Gauchos (22-4), who won the Big West regular-season championship, secured their spot by defeating UC Irvine 79-63 in the conference tournament title game on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Santa Barbara, seeded 12th in the region, will be playing in the NCAA tournament for the sixth time. Its last victory in the tournament came in 1990.


The Gauchos have won 18 of their last 19 games and are led by JaQuori McLaughlin, who had 22 points in the title game against Irvine. McLaughlin, a 6-foot-4 senior guard who started his college career at Oregon State, was selected as the Big West player of the year.

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“I’m so proud of this team,” Santa Barbara coach Joe Pasternack said Saturday. “Through everything that has gone on in the last several months, they’ve honored the process and taken us to the NCAA tournament. That says a lot about them as a group.”

Creighton (20-8) reached the final of the Big East tournament on Saturday, losing to Georgetown 73-48. The Bluejays went 14-6 in Big East play, finishing second to Villanova.