Second Half Rally Paces Gauchos to 57-53 Big West Win at UC Riverside

Jan. 4, 2010

Box Score

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Orlando Johnson scored five points and had a key steal in the final 22 seconds on Monday night as UC Santa Barbara overcame an ice-cold first half and rallied for a 57-53 Big West road win at UC Riverside.

Johnson made a three-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded with 22 seconds left in the game putting the Gauchos up 55-53. He then had a steal on the defensive end and was intentionally fouled with 10 seconds. Johnson made both free throws to ice the win.

The first half of Monday night's game looked strikingly similar to Saturday night's loss at UC Irvine. The Gauchos (6-6 overall, 1-1 in Big West) scored just 14 points while shooting 17.9% overall and making 2-of-13 three-point attempts. Riverside (7-7, 1-1) led 23-14 at the break.

The second half was a different world entirely.

UCSB outscored the Highlanders 21-4 over the first 6:47 of the second half to take a 35-27 lead. Johnson, who finished with 17 points, had seven of the points in the run. James Nunnally, who had a team-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds, and James Powell each had six. Greg Somogyi had the other two.

"After scoring 14 points in the first half, we really exploded to start the second," said head coach Bob Williams. "We started with a different lineup and that really sparked us. The other factor was that O.J. (Johnson), Nun (Nunnally), and James were all really assertive offensively and got the ball moving."

Somogyi and Powell, who came off the bench in the first half, joined Johnson, Nunnally, and Will Brew to start the second half.

Like the Gauchos, the Highlanders had some fight in them as well.

Kyle Austin, who finished with a game-high 20 points, scored seven of his points as Riverside cut UCSB's lead to 37-36 with 9:46 left in the game.

Following a 10-foot jumper by Johnson that gave the Gauchos a 39-36 lead, the Highlanders went on an 8-0 to reclaim the advantage. The final three points came on a short jump hook by Austin. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw to give his team a 44-39 lead with 6:36 to play.

"That was a pivotal moment for us," Williams said. "We needed something to spark us and we got it with Will Brew's three-point play."

After a missed shot by Nunnally, Jaimé Serna battled for a rebound and tipped it to Will Brew in the key. Brew took one dribble and was fouled while making a soft lay-up. He made the free throw to pull UCSB back within two, 44-42.

Austin responded again with a jumper from the right elbow, but Nunnally answered it with a three-pointer from the top of the key to make it 46-45 Riverside with 5:06 left. A missed shot by Austin was deflected out of bounds by the Highlanders and Johnson took advantage, making a shot from just above the free throw line to put the Gauchos back up 47-46 with 4:32 remaining.

On the other end, Larry Gurganious got free for a lay-up and the lead see-sawed back in Riverside's favor, 48-47 with 4:04 left.

The score was still 48-47 with 2:22 remaining when Austin scored on a lay-up in traffic to give the Highlanders a 50-47 lead. But Nunnally pulled up and made a three-pointer with 2:11 left to knot the score at 50 apiece.

Rudy Meo, who had 15 points, matched Nunnally's three with one of his own to make it 53-50 with just under two minutes to play. Those were the last three points Riverside would score.

After a Gaucho timeout, Nunnally curled around a screen and made a jumper from inside the top of the key to make it 53-52 with 1:33 to play. On the defensive end, it was Somogyi's turn to change the game as he blocked an attempted lay-up by David Chavarria with exactly a minute to play. Somogyi, who tied his career-high with five blocked shots, also deflected the ball off of a Highlander player's leg, giving UCSB possession with 57 seconds to play.

After a timeout, Santa Barbara ran the shot clock all the way down before Johnson made a long three-pointer from the right side to give the Gauchos a 55-53 lead with 22 seconds left. Defensively, he stole the ball from Chavarria, who in turn fouled Johnson.

Despite making just 3-of-7 free throw attempts for the game, Johnson made both with 10 seconds remaining to give UCSB a 57-53 lead. A three-point attempt by Jaloni Diggs with six seconds left was rebounded by Will Brew and the final seconds ran down.

"That was a gut-check win," Williams said. "Our guys really showed what they are made of in the second half. I'm proud of them."

Nunnally (19) and Johnson (17) were joined in double-figures by Powell who had 11. Somogyi had one of his best games as a Gaucho and was a key figure in the turnaround as he had six points, five rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists, one steal, and no turnovers in 17 minutes.

UCSB, which has not played a home game since Dec. 5, will return home on Friday, Jan. 8 to host UC Davis in an 8:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome. The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 7. It will be televised by ESPNU. The Gauchos are also at home at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 10 to host Pacific.

To purchase tickets, please call (805) 893-UCSB, visit the Ticket Office located inside the Intercollegiate Athletics building on campus or click here.

UCSB Athletics has a new weekly radio show called Talk'n Gauchos which airs every Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. on AM 1490 KIST. The show is broadcast live from State & A Bar and Grill, located on the corner of State Street and Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara. Fans are encouraged to attend the show for free gear and ticket giveaways or to even e-mail a question in to one of the guests and have it read live over the air. The show also airs live online via audio streaming and fans can click here to check out the entire lineup of live audio streaming online.

Tuesday's guests include Bob Williams.