Nunnally knows best for Gauchos

UCSB's Orlando Johnson collected 21 points on Friday night.

The UCSB men’s basketball team opened its season Friday night in convincing fashion, following James Nunnally in a 68-54 exhibition win over The Master’s College at the Thunderdome.

The Gauchos were led by the junior forward, who scored 22 points along with ten rebounds and four assists. Returning Big West Player of the Year Orlando Johnson tallied 21 points.

The game itself was what one would expect from an exhibition season-opener.

“Offensively we were sloppy, we were jittery,” said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. ”Our poise wasn’t very good. That’s why we have exhibition games, so we can get that stuff out of our system.”

“Once we got playing, our defense sparked everything,” said Nunnally. “We ran the floor, got some dunks.”

The Gauchos were able to overcome their offensive miscues because of the stellar defense they played, party because UCSB completely outsized the smaller line up of the Master’s College at every position. UCSB ran a 1-3-1 defense that sent their bigger defenders swarming all over the Mustangs’ offense.

“We added that to our arsenal,” said Williams of the 1-3-1. “It allows us to use our length and still be aggressive.”

Christian Peterson hoists up a shot in his Gaucho debut on Friday. (Vince Agapito Photos)

The aggressive defense shut the Mustangs down inside, as the Gauchos had six blocks, led by center Greg Somogyi’s two. The only consistent shots that the Master’s squad was able to find was deep behind the three point line, as the Mustangs launched 25 three-point attempts.

“We were alive defensively, and we confused them,” said Williams. “(Our defense) is kind of like Chinese-water torture, it just wears on you.”

Anthony Cammon, who scored 19 points and was especially deadly from 3-point territory, shooting 5-8 from behind the arc, led the Mustangs offensively.

After shaking off those first-half jitters, the Gauchos, headed by Nunnally and Johnson, put on a show of spectacular alley-oops and long-range shots. While each individual effort was great, the Gauchos ability to showcase their camaraderie and willingness to share the ball proved that the chemistry that was so successful last year is carrying over.

“Everybody loves the dunk show,’ said Williams. “But what you love most is that they are looking for each other.”

Looking ahead, the Gauchos showed that they have a couple minor flaws that need to be worked on. UCSB committed 18 turnovers and shot only 64 percent from the free-throw line, giving away easy points on 18-of-28 shooting.

“I’m not happy with ten turnovers in the first half at all,” said Williams. “And I’m also not happy with our lack of making free-throws. You’re giving away points when you don’t do that.”

The Gauchos’ lead was comfortably in double digits during the second half, and some of UCSB’s role players were given extended playing time. Lucas Devenny provided size and energy off the bench, scoring three points and grabbing seven boards, and headed the strong second half defense effort that limited the Mustangs to 26 points.

The Gauchos will continue their season next Friday in Eugene, Oregon, at the BTI Invitation Tournement against the University of Denver at 4:30 p.m.