March 10, 2011
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Orlando Johnson scored 32 points and James Nunnally added 19 to lead fifth-seeded UC Santa Barbara to a 79-67 win over fourth-seeded Pacific in the first round of the ampm Big West Tournament at Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday.
Johnson's 32 points were the most ever scored by a Gaucho in a league tournament game.
Pacific (16-15) led 11-8 about six minutes into the game, but UCSB (16-13) went on a 10-0 run that was capped by a Jordan Weiner three-pointer to take an 18-11 lead with 11:02 to play in the first half. The advantage was still six, 26-20 with 3:22 left, but freshman Troy Leaf made three-point baskets from the top of the key to end the half giving the Gauchos a 32-20 lead at the break.
Santa Barbara stayed hot in the second half. A Nunnally three-pointer pushed the lead to 37-24 and then after a Terrell Smith three cut the lead back to 10, Johnson made back-to-back threes to push the lead to 43-27.
Pacific fought back. A Smith lay-up off of a Gaucho turnover brought his team back to a single-digit deficit, 45-36.
It was the last time the UCSB lead dipped below 10 the rest of the game.
The Gauchos led by as many as 22 points twice, the final time coming when Johnson had a steal and a breakaway slam dunk with 5:17 remaining in the game. They still led by 21 before Allen Huddleston made a trio of three-pointers in the final 56 seconds to make the score look closer.
"Obviously I'm very pleased to get the win," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "We'd played Pacific two previous times and not done very well against them, and not defended well. I thought tonight we defended at a very high level and we had great energy. We shot the ball well, and rebounded it, and we caused some match-up problems for them."
The last time the teams met, on Feb. 3, the Tigers made 11-of-18 three-point attempts, 61.1%, and beat the Gauchos by a 74-68 count. On Thursday they made just 6-of-20, 30.0%, and were 3-of-17 before Huddleston made three in the final minute. Ironically, UCSB was 11-of-18 in this game.
"We did a better job of matching up and switching," Williams said. "Our zone has morphed a little bit. We've changed it a little bit so it gives us a better chance to match up with people. We did it against Cal Poly, we did it against Pacific. It was really Pacific that forced us to make that change last time we played them. If you stay in front of them and get good contest on them, they're not going to make shots like they did earlier against us."
UCSB, on the other hand, had one of its best shooting efforts of the year, making 28-of-49 overall, 57.1%.
Senior guard Justin Joyner had nine assists for the Gauchos and Nunnally added six rebounds to go with his 19 points.
Pacific was led by Huddleston who had 21. He made five three-pointers. Demetrece Young had 15 and Smith 12. Sam Willard, a First Team All-Big West choice, was limited to nine on 3-of-13 from the field.
UCSB will play Cal State Northridge in the Big West Tournament semifinal on Friday. The Matadors easily defeated Cal State Fullerton in the late game on Thursday night. Tip-off for the game will be at approximately 8:30 p.m.