Gauchos Push Winning Streak to Three With 85-70 Win at Northridge

Orlando Johnson (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Orlando Johnson (Photo by Tony Mastres)

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Orlando Johnson scored 25 points and Alan Williams had a career-high 19 to pace UC Santa Barbara to an 85-70 Big West Conference win at Cal State Northridge on Thursday night. 

The Gauchos (12-7 overall, 7-2 in the Big West) trailed the Matadors (6-14 overall, 2-7 in the Big West) 9-2 in the opening minutes before Johnson and Williams combined for all 15 points during a 15-4 run that gave them a 17-13 lead.  UCSB built the lead to 13 points, 34-21, before settling for a 38-31 halftime lead.  Johnson and Williams each finished with 13 points in the first 20 minutes.

Northridge started the second half with a 6-1 run to narrow the Gauchos' lead to 39-37 with 17:27 left in the game.  Stephan Hicks, the Matadors leading scorer who was scoreless in the first half, scored all six points in the run. 

Santa Barbara pushed the lead back to 47-38 on a three-pointer by James Nunnally with 16:10 left in the game, but a three by Vinnie McGhee narrowed it back to 47-41 with 15:56 to play.

The Gauchos then went on a decisive 10-2 run to break the game open.  Jaimé Serna made a free throw line jumper, Taylor drilled a three-pointer from the left side and Serna took a perfect feed from Johnson for a slam dunk.  After John Hayward-Mayhew made a short jumper to stem the tide, Johnson answered with a three-pointer from above the key, giving UCSB a 57-43 lead with 13:27 left. 

The lead never dipped below 10 the rest of the way and got to 85-68 in the final minute. 

Williams, a freshman, had a game-high nine rebounds to go with his 19 points.  After a scoreless first half, Nunnally scored 14 points in the pivotal second half.  Taylor, also a freshman, matched his career-high with five assists to go with six points and four rebounds. 

As a team, the Gauchos shot 55.6% for the game, including a red-hot 68.0% in the second half.  The Matadors shot 38.5% for the game and became the eighth opponent in nine league games to shoot below 40.0% against UCSB.

"It was a slow start, but I thought we played well tonight, particularly in the second half," said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams.  "Any time you can play against their style and have only 10 turnovers, you've done something right." 

Williams sited Taylor as one of the main reasons.

"For a freshman to come in here and face the type of pressure they put on you and turn the ball over only once, that's outstanding, he said.

Josh Greene had 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds while Hicks finished with 12 points for Northridge.

UCSB has now won three straight games and five of the last six.

Santa Barbara remains on the road for one more, traveling to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Feb. 4 for a 6:00 p.m. game that will be televised on ESPNU.  The Gauchos return home on Saturday, Feb. 11 for a 7:30 p.m. game against UC Riverside.  The game against the Highlanders will be televised on Prime Ticket.

All Gaucho games are broadcast live on KZSB AM 1290 in Santa Barbara.  The pregame show starts 30 minutes before the opening tip.  Gerry Fall, The Voice of the Gauchos, calls all the action with former UCSB and Los Angeles Laker Don Ford handling the color.  Santa Barbara News-Press Senior Sports Writer Mark Patton lends his insight to the pregame and halftime shows.  The broadcast can also be accessed live online by clicking here.