March 12, 2010

Gauchos Advance to Big West Championship Game with 76-62 Win Over UC Davis



March 12, 2010

Box Score

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Senior guard James Powell scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, including 10 in a row during a pivotal stretch, as UC Santa Barbara defeated UC Davis in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament on Friday in Anaheim, 76-63. The win sends the Gauchos to their second Big West Tournament championship game ever and first since 2002. They will play Long Beach State, a winner of Pacific in Friday's late game.

Top-seeded UCSB (19-9), which led 33-11 when James Nunnally opened the second half with a lay-up, saw its once 22-point lead dwindle to five on five occasions in the second half. Fourth-seeded Davis (14-18) cut the advantage to five for the last time when Julian Welch made a jumper from the free throw line with 7:01 left.

The Aggies had a chance to shrink the lead even more when Todd Lowenthal was fouled after Jaimé Serna missed a lay-up from under the backboard. Lowenthal, however, missed the front end of the one-and-one and Nunnally rebounded.

The Gauchos called a play, but it broke down. With eight seconds left on the shot clock, Powell took the ball near the top of the 3-point line. He moved to his right, into the corner and after a pump-fake got Dominic Calegari in the air, he made a 3-pointer to put UCSB up by eight, 51-43 with 6:11 left in the game.

"I just gave a little fake to get him (Calegari) in the air," Powell said. "I just shot it and it went in. It was a good feeling."

After a pair of free throws by Welch, Powell made another long 3-pointer from straight up top. On the next possession, he took a pass from Nunnally on a breakaway and went in for a lay-up to extend the lead to 56-45.

Will Brew rebounded a missed jumper by Adam Malik and again got the ball to Powell, who was fouled by Calegari. The Pomona, Calif., native made two more free throws to put UCSB up 58-45 with 4:19 remaining.

Davis never got closer than 10 the rest of the way as Powell made six more free throws in the final 1:09.

"James has a very even personality," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "He is very calm and so he has always been good in those situations during his career."

Powell's third 3-pointer of the game moved him into a tie with Mark Hull for the Gauchos' all-time career lead with 217.

Santa Barbara was outstanding defensively in the first half, holding the Aggies to just 11 points. At one time, they were just 1-for-16 from the field, and they finished the first half at 4-for-22, 18.2%.

The second half was a different story as Davis scored 51 points, including 17 by Calegari, but the Gauchos were able to fend off the Aggies and advance to the Big West title game.

"I am very proud of this group," Williams said. "They fight back. It isn't always easy. We've been the number one seed three times and this is the first time we will go to the championship game. This win kind of gets a monkey off our back in that respect."

Nunnally finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Orlando Johnson, the Big West Player of the Year, battled foul trouble but finished with 14 points. Greg Somogyi scored just two points, but he had seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Joe Harden paced Davis with 20 points. Calegari had 18 and Welch 17.

The championship game will tip-off at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at the Anaheim Convention Center. UCSB will play Long Beach State in the title game. Long Beach defeated Pacific on Friday night. The game will be televised live on ESPN 2 and carried on AM 1490 KIST in Santa Barbara. It is also available on-line at UCSBgauchos.com.

Tickets for the championship game will be on sale from 2-4 p.m. in the lobby of the Anabella Hotel, immediately next to the Anaheim Convention Center on Katella Avenue. The first 100 UCSB students will receive free tickets at the Anabella from 2-4 p.m. or after 4 p.m. at the Anaheim Convention Center outside box office. The tickets will be on a first-come-first-serve basis.