Orlando Johnson's three-point basket from deep in the right corner with 5.1 seconds to play gave UC Santa Barbara a thrilling 58-57 win at Cal Poly in the Big West Conference opener for both teams on Monday night. The win was the 223rd of head coach Bob Williams' Gaucho career, a new school record.
"I wasn't thinking of that one bit," Williams said of the record-setting victory. "It was just great to get out of here with a win. That was such a big shot by O.J. He had a tough game at times, but when it mattered most, he made the shot. He's just so special."
Johnson finished the game 4-for-14 from the field and his game-winning three-point shot bounced high off the rim three times before falling through. He finished with 12 points.
The Mustangs had one more chance to win. After bringing the ball into the front court they called a timeout with 2.3 seconds left. On the inbounds, they got the ball to David Hanson who missed a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
"I always have confidence," Johnson said of his game-winner. "Even when I'm not shooting the ball well, I know that I just need to keep shooting and good things will happen."
Johnson's shot bailed out UCSB, which led by 13 points with less than 15 minutes to play. The shot was also the Gauchos only field goal in the final 7:47 of the game.
"We didn't execute well in the final seven minutes," Williams said. "I thought, for the most part, we defended well, but we had some bad turnovers and that let them get back into the game."
Cal Poly took a 56-55 lead on a Hanson layup with 1:41 remaining. The lead was the Mustangs' first and only advantage of the second half. They had two golden opportunities to add to the lead but missed three out of four free throws in the final 36 seconds, opening the door for Johnson's heroics.
The Gauchos were behind by as many as seven points in the first half, but sparked by the play of freshman Alan Williams, they clawed back to take a 29-22 lead at the break. Williams finished the game with career-highs of 13 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of action.
Another bright spot for Santa Barbara was the play of junior guard Nate Garth. Coming off the bench for just the second time this season, Garth made all four of his field goal attempts, including three three-pointers, and finished with 12 points. James Nunnally added 12 points, including a baseline jumper at the buzzer to end the first half.
Cal Poly was led by senior forward Will Taylor who had 17 points and 11 rebounds while guard Amaurys Fermin had 11 points.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for UCSB, which improved to 6-5 overall and 1-0 in the Big West. The loss dropped the Mustangs to 9-5 overall and 0-1 in league. It was also the Gauchos' eighth win in their last nine games against Cal Poly and the second in a row at Mott Gymnasium.
UCSB returns home on Thursday, Jan. 5 to host Cal State Fullerton. It will be the Gauchos first home game in 35 days. The contest against the Titans will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.
Tickets for Thursday's game and all UCSB basketball games, are available from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB(8272) or online by clicking here.