Powell closes door, Gauchos advance to title game

ANAHEIM — The Gauchos started off strong, then went to their closer to finish the job.

UCSB defeated UC Davis 76-62 on Friday behind a clutch performance from senior James Powell, who scored 16 of the Gauchos’ final 28 points, including two gutsy three-pointers that put the game out of reach. The victory advances UCSB to the championship game of the Big West Tournament.

Powell’s threes came after a furious comeback by the Aggies, who cut a 22-point deficit to five with 6:33 left in the game. Though UC Davis only managed 11 points in the first half, the team opened the final period with an onslaught that had the Gauchos on their heels.

“They really come out, and they fight and scrap,” said UCSB coach Bob Williams.  “When they were down 22, a lesser caliber [type of] kid and a lesser caliber coach would have rolled over.”

Davis went on an 18-5 run to start the second half, and was markedly energetic on the defensive end, causing five turnovers during the rally.

“We have great kids, really competitive,” said Davis coach Gary Stewart about their halftime adjustments.  “There was a lot of basketball still to play, and we had to get some stops.”

UCSB's Orlando Johnson slams one home.

After several three-pointers by senior Dominic Calegari, the Aggies looked poised to take the lead. But it was Powell’s record-tying 217th career three-pointer that put the game away for good.

“Thank goodness James Powell was the player we focused in on,” said Williams.  “He changed the momentum of the game.  He changed our energy.”


Forward James Nunnally notched 17 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in the winning effort, and standout Orlando Johnson added 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting. UC Davis was led by Joe Harden’s 20 points and seven boards, while Calegari scored all but one of his 18 points in the second half.

The Gauchos’ defensive tone was set by big man Greg Somogyi, who logged six rebounds and two blocks in 12 minutes of first-half relief.  Inserted after forward Jaime Serna was pulled for foul trouble, the 7’3” Somogyi owned the defensive paint, and threw down a two-handed alley-oop that riled up the Santa Barbara faithful.

“Greg dominated the game, he really changed it,” said Williams.  “It allowed us to get aggressive on the perimeter.”

But the game belonged to James Powell.

“I don’t think about them as big moments,” said Powell afterwards, describing his big night.  “It’s just a play in a game.  Any play can be a big moment.”

When asked about his record-tying three, Powell said “Calegari stepped out, so I didn’t really have a path to the basket…I had no choice but to shoot it.”

“…no choice but to make it,” added Coach Williams.

The Gauchos play the winner of tonight’s Pacific-Long Beach State matchup at 5 p.m. Saturday for the Big West Championship and a March Madness berth.