Jan. 15, 2011
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - In recent games, UC Santa Barbara's Orlando Johnson has been scoring the bulk of his points in the second half. On Saturday night, against visiting UC Riverside, the junior scored 28 points, 16 in the first half, to lead the Gauchos (10-6 overall, 3-2 in the Big West) to a 64-57 win over the Highlanders (7-9 overall, 3-2 in the Big West).
The teams traded baskets for the first 10 minutes of the game with the lead changing hands six times and no lead bigger than four.
With UCSB leading 19-17, Greg Somogyi scored on back-to-back alley-oop lay-ups, the first from Johnson and the second from James Nunnally. After the second of the two baskets, Somogyi made an outstanding defensive play when he blocked an attempted slam dunk by Riverside's Kareem Nitoto. The block ignited a breakaway dunk by Johnson to give the Gauchos a 25-17 lead with 8:20 to play in the first half.
The Highlanders wouldn't go away however, and when Kevin Bradshaw scored on a dunk of his own, the lead was back down to four, 27-23, with 6:05 to play. A lay-up and free throw by Johnson and a baseline jumper and a pair of free throws from Nunnally pushed the Gauchos' advantage to double-figures for the first time in the game, 34-23. They led by 10 at half, 39-29.
In the first half, Johnson made all seven of his field goal attempts, including one three-pointer.
Riverside opened the second half by outscoring UCSB 7-2 to cut the lead to 41-36 with 15:41 remaining in the game. The Gauchos, in fact, had made just one field goal in the second half - a jumper by Johnson - until Nunnally threw-down a slam dunk with 11:35 to play, giving his team a 45-36 edge.
The lead didn't fall below eight until Javon Borum, who entered the game averaging 25.0 points per game in Big West play, made a three-pointer with 57 seconds left to make it 61-55. Borum finished with 12 points on 4-of-13 from the field. All four of his field goals were from three-point range.
Santa Barbara made three out of four free throws in the final 30 seconds to put the game away. Johnson hit a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left to complete his 28-point performance.
"I was getting pretty good looks at the baskets and my shots were falling," Johnson said. "A lot of my best looks came after great defensive efforts and that made it even better."
UCSB's defensive effort as a team was outstanding. For the second straight game the Gauchos limited a team that was averaging more than 71 points per game to fewer than 60. The Highlanders made just 21-of-57 field goals, 36.8%. They made just 8-of-28 in the second half, 28.6%.
"I think the last two games have been two of our best defensive games of the season," said head coach Bob Williams. "We haven't been settling for soft fly-bys on shots and instead we've been rotating really well. That's more how we were playing last year and that's a good sign."
Johnson made 11-of-16 shots overall finished with seven rebounds. Nunnally scored 19 points and also had seven boards. Jordan Weiner had seven points, five assists and four rebounds while Justin Joyner had a game-high six assists to go with three points, which he scored on an important three-pointer late in the game.
As a team, the Gauchos shot 54.8% overall and they outrebounded Riverside by a 32-30 margin. The Highlanders were led by Borum and Elliott Berry who had 12 points apiece. Nitoto had 10. Borum also added six assists.
UCSB will hit the road for its next two games traveling first to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Jan. 22 for a 6:00 p.m. game against the Titans. The Gauchos will also play at Cal Poly at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 27, before returning home to host Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Jan. 29.
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