Gauchos lack spark in Big West opener

UCSB bombed on the opening night of Big West play, getting outworked in the paint and having its top two scorers struggle in a 71-55 men’s basketball loss to Long Beach State on Tuesday night at the Thunderdome.

Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, the Gauchos’ top two scorers, combined for only six baskets out of 27 attempts. Johnson finished as the team’s high scorer with 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Nunnally was off all night, making just 1 of 11 shots, a 3-pointer at 14:13 in the first half that tied the score at 5-5.

UCSB's Orlando Johnson flies for a layup against Long Beach State's Eugene Phelps.

Long Beach (6-8, 1-0) was sparked by the return of forward Larry Anderson. Playing in his first game in a month after suffering a broken hand, Anderson poured in 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting and grabbed a team-best eight rebounds.

“I came out yesterday here and had a good practice and it felt good,” Anderson said of his hand. “And I knew I was going to play.”

Asked if he was surprised at how well he shot, Anderson said, “That’s all I’ve been doing is shooting. I should be shooting better.”

Anderson got the 49ers rolling on a 12-3 run early in the second half that helped them open up a 13-point lead, 52-39, and take command of the game. He scored on an offensive rebound to start the run and added two free throws and a tip-in basket.

Long Beach showed great balance in its lineup. T.J. Robinson scored 13 points, Eugene Phelps and Greg Plater each tallied 12 and point guard Casper Ware added nine points and dished off six assists.

The 49ers shot 49 percent from the floor, making 24 of 49 shots. The Gauchos, meanwhile, shot a frigid 33 percent (18-54).

Anderson said shutting down Johnson and Nunnally was their game plan.

“That was really our preparation because they’re averaging 20 points each or whatever, so if we shut them out and make other people score, then they’d probably have a tough time.”

UCSB’s Justin Joyner, who score nine points, said it’s up to the rest of the team to pick it up when its top two scorers are struggling.

“We have to pick it up as a group and make plays, but nobody made plays tonight,” he said.

Greg Somogyi goes up for two against Long Beach.

Said Gaucho coach Bob Williams, “Orlando worked really hard to get to the rim and still couldn’t make shots. It was one of those nights.

“Nun settled too much for the three,” he continued. “The more they wouldn’t drop, the more he wanted to shoot them. Shooters feel like the next one is going in.”

Long Beach did most of its damage in the paint, scoring 32 points. The penetration of quick guards Ware and Greg Plater set up many of the inside baskets.

“They were the better team, they were the more aggressive team and it showed,” said Gaucho Jon Pastorek, who made a 26-foot desperation shot at the buzzer in the first half. “It’s a wakeup call. It’s a long conference season, but it’s definitely not a very good taste in our mouth.”

UCSB (6-5, 0-1) looked as though it might make a run at the 49ers after Nunnally made a spectacular block on Plater, who was going in for an uncontested layup after grabbing a long rebound following a missed 3-pointer by Nunnally.

Jaime Serna scored inside following the block to cut the deficit to five, 55-50.

But Long Beach regained the momentum when Eugene Phelps blocked a 3-point attempt by Johnson, raced down court, scored and was fouled for a three-point play. Anderson scored on an offensive rebound and Ware drove inside for another bucket to push the 49ers’ lead to 12, 62-50, with 3:52 to play.

“We played very similar to how we practiced,” Williams said about his team’s subpar performance. “We didn’t take initiative very much at all. We were just very, very passive, especially at the offensive end.”

The positive news for the Gauchos is there is a lot of basketball yet to be played.

“It’s only December,” Williams reminded reporters.

The game was rematch of the last year’s Big West Tournament championship game, which the Gauchos won to earn the conference’s NCAA Tournament berth.

UCSB returns to the court on New Year’s Eve with a nonconference game against NAIA school Fresno Pacific.


  1. Definitely disappointing–hope to see the Gauchos get back on track for the conference season…and take care of business at Long Beach!