March 12, 2011
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Orlando Johnson, fresh off his 32-point performance last night against Pacific, picked up where he left making all five of his three-point attempts and scorching Cal State Northridge for 30 points to lead UC Santa Barbara to an 83-63 victory over the No. 3 Matadors Friday night at Honda Center.
UCSB, the No. 5 seed, returns to the 2011 ampm Big West Tournament championship game to defend its title against No. 1 Long Beach State, the team it defeated to win the 2010 title. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. at Honda Center.
Johnson has been on fire in the tournament, setting a Gaucho tournament scoring record on Thursday night and narrowly missing again tonight. In two games, he has scored 62 points, shot 19 for 33 (57.6%) from the field, including 9-of-12 (75%) from three-point range, and made 15-of-17 free throws (88%). On Friday night, the junior also set a Gaucho record with his five three-point baskets
Lenny Daniel led Cal State Northridge with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Rashaun McLemore scored 13 points and Josh Greene chipped in with 12 of his own for the Matadors.
UC Santa Barbara (17-13) controlled the game early taking leads of 11-4, 20-11 and 30-14 while sprinting out to a 40-19 halftime advantage. Serna and Johnson were a dominating duo from opening tip. Serna established the inside game scoring 12 points while Johnson provided the outside touch with 20 points and four of four shooting from three-point range as UCSB set the tone from the beginning.
"I didn't think we could play much better than we did in the first half yesterday," said head coach Bob Williams of the Gauchos' win over Pacific. "But we did tonight. I thought that first half was about the best basketball we've played in a long time."
McLemore did all he could in the first half for Cal State Northridge (14-18) scoring nine points but no other Matador scored more than three. Northridge shot a poor 22.2% from the field (6-of-27) while the Gauchos shot a solid 50.0% (14-of-28). Only one assist was credited to the Matadors.
The Gauchos scored the first five points of the second half to increase their lead to a surprising and staggering 45-19, the largest of the night. UCSB led 57-33 when Cal State Northridge mounted a comeback to close the gap.
Daniel, who scored only two points in the first half, rallied the Matadors on a 17-7 run by scoring on jumpers and free throws. Josh Greene's three-point shot from the top of the key helped cut the deficit to 64-50.
But Johnson calmly stepped to the foul line and converted two free throws followed Serna making two from the charity stripe to give the Gauchos a comfortable 68-50 lead with 5:21 remaining in the game.
The teams traded baskets the rest of the way as UCSB held on for the win. Cal State Northridge finished a rough shooting night from the field (20-of-70, 28.6%) as they took 24 more shots but made just one more than the Gauchos (19-of-46, 41.3%).
The Gauchos made 37 of 48 free throws, including 30 of 38 in the second half.
Santa Barbara lost both contests earlier in the season to Cal State Northridge but this game was never in doubt as the Gauchos dominated from the outset and now find themselves playing for a second consecutive Big West Tournament crown in a rematch of last year's game.