Gauchos brush back Lions, 89-84

LOS ANGELES – On the road for the first time and an undefeated season on the line, UCSB senior James Powell pulled out his best game this year to help the Gauchos hold off hard-charging Loyola Marymount 89-84 in Gertsen Pavilion on Saturday night.

The Gauchos improve to 4-0, in large part thanks to Powell’s 21 points, six rebounds and four assists. Powell hit five 3-pointers and knocked down his only two free-throw attempts with 13 seconds remaining to put away the Lions.

UCSB's leading score Orlando Johnson scored 16 points in an 89-84 win against his former team Loyola Marymount

UCSB's leading score Orlando Johnson scored 16 points in an 89-84 win against his former team Loyola Marymount

“To start 4-0, no matter who you start against, no matter who you are, is a good thing,” Powell said.

Another good thing for the the Gauchos was that Powell had company shooting the ball well. UCSB had five players score in double figures and connected on 65 percent of its field goals in the second half to reach a season-high 89 points.



“The great thing is that a year ago we would have crumbled,” said UCSB head coach Bob Williams, whose Gauchos had to fend off a Lions team that scored 53 points in the second half. “And now we have a little more fight in us, a few more guys who can make plays, a few more guys who can get to the rim and that’s good to see.”

James Nunnally and Orlando Johnson tallied 16 points each, Sam Phippen 14 and Jaime Serna 12. Both Johnson, who played at LMU his freshman year before transferring to UCSB, and Nunnally, had slow first halves before picking it up substantially in the second half, accounting for half of the Gauchos’ 54 points in the final 20 minutes.

“They were just tougher than us today,” summed up LMU’s leading scorer Drew Viney. “On the boards, on defense. They were more aggressive than us. When you’re tougher than somebody, it just pays off.”

Viney, who has already scorched UC Irvine this season for a season-high 30 points in a losing cause, reached a game-high 25 points.

UCSB was definitely tougher when it mattered most, using a 10-2 run near the end of the first half to stake a 35-31 lead at halftime.The Lions rallied in the second half to draw even at 56-56 before Powell drained his fifth long-ball of the night. It energized a 14-4 run for the Gauchos, helped out by a driving two-handed dunk by Nunnally.

Loyola, which just beat USC 67-59 last week, never gave up, valiantly pulling to within three points twice with under a minute remaining. UCSB showed its coach something, hitting almost 80 percent of its free throws during the second half to stay in front. Johnson, who started the season 9-for-19 from the line, was 8-for-8 in the second half.

“I liked the way everybody stepped up tonight and made big plays,” said Johnson, who leads the Gauchos in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage and blocks. “James Powell came through real big for us. I was really excited for him.”

Powell’s 5-for-7 performance from behind the arc was part of UCSB’s all-around 10-for 16 night. LMU, which came into the game hitting nearly 50 percent from long range made only 5-of-20 3-pointers.

The Lions, in their second home game of the season, unveiled throw-back uniforms commemorating the 20th anniversary of the tragically famous 1989-90 team featuring Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble.

“I was sitting right here at this table when Hank passed,” remembered coach Williams, who was an assistant coach at Pepperdine at the time scouting LMU courtside. “It was a very scary and tragic moment. That kid was a warrior and he loved to play.”

That year’s Cinderella NCAA team reached the Elite 8 with Kimble shooting left-handed free throws in honor of his late friend.

LMU drops its non-conference record to 2-5 and hosts the Academy of the Arts in its next game. UCSB returns home for games with Santa Clara and San Diego State before a six-straight road games that will keep them from the Thunderdome until the second week of January.