Gauchos Get Defensive to End Fullerton's 7-Game Winning Streak, 77-64

James Nunnally (Photo by Tony Mastres)
James Nunnally (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Orlando Johnson scored 23 points and James Nunnally had 18, including 13 to spark a strong first half charge, as UC Santa Barbara beat visiting Cal State Fullerton in a Big West Conference game on Thursday night.

The Gauchos (7-5 overall, 2-0 in Big West) ended the Fullerton's (10-4 overall, 2-1 in Big West) seven-game winning streak and they did it with defense.

"The first half I thought we played really good defense," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams.  "They (the Titans) are a very good offensive team, one of the best in our league, so we knew if we were going to win, we were going to need one of our best defensive efforts of the season."

Fullerton entered the game averaging 80.1 points per game, shooting 49.5% overall and 39.0% from three-point range.  The Titans were held more than 17 points below their scoring average and to 34.3% shooting from the field, more than 15-percent below their mark for the season.  In the first half, they made just 8-of-35 field goal attempts overall and 1-of-10 from three-point range.

The Gauchos struggled offensively in the first half, but led by Nunnally and Keegan Hornbuckle, rallied to take a 35-21 lead at the break.

After missing their first four shots and falling behind early, UCSB ended the first half on a 24-7 run to take a 35-21 lead.  Nunnally scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half while Hornbuckle added nine, his total for the game.

The Gauchos opened the second half on an 8-3 run to seize their biggest lead of the game, 43-24.  But a 9-0 surge by the Titans was capped by a D.J. Seeley layup and the lead was back to 10, 43-33 with 15:09 to play. 

Kyle Boswell made a hanging jumper from just inside the free throw line to end Fullerton's rally and the lead never dipped below eight the rest of the way.

The win may have come at a cost to UCSB.  With 12:10 left in the game, senior forward Jaimé Serna scored on a driving layup and was fouled by Fullerton's André Hardy.  Serna fell to the floor, landing on his right hand.  He left the game and didn't return.  The extent of the injury was not yet known.

The final basket by Serna gave him eight points on 3-of-4 shooting.  He also added eight rebounds.  Nunnally added eight rebounds to his 18 points and freshman Alan Williams also finished with eight boards.  Johnson, who made just 5-of-18 field goal attempts, made his final 10 free throw attempts to finish 10-of-11.  He added six rebounds and four assists to his game-high 23 points.  Nate Garth had five assists for UCSB.

As a team, the Gauchos made 46.3% of their shots, including 8-of-16 from three-point land.  Nunnally and Johnson each had three three-point baskets.

Fullerton was led by Isiah Umppig who had 18 points while Seeley had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.  Kwame Vaughn added 12 points and five assists and Hardy had eight points and 10 rebounds.

The Gauchos will be off until they travel to UC Riverside for a Big West game on Thursday, Jan. 12.  The game will tipoff at 7:00 p.m. and can be heard live on KZSB 1290 AM in Santa Barbara.  The pregame show starts 30 minutes prior to game time.

UCSB returns home on Saturday, Jan. 14 to host UC Irvine in 7:00 p.m. game.  Tickets for that contest are available from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB(8272) or online by clicking here.