Gauchos get big lift from OJ in second half

DAVISOrlando Johnson scored 21 points, including nine in a row during one critical second half stretch, and James Nunnally chipped in 17 points and nine rebounds as UCSB  won at UC Davis on Thursday night, 77-65.

The Gauchos (8-5 overall, 1-1 in the Big West) trailed 14-7 early but rallied to take a 41-37 lead over the Aggies (6-9 overall, 1-2 in the Big West) at halftime.  Nunnally scored 11 of his 17 points in the first 20 minutes.

Johnson made just 2-of-6 shots and had five points in the first half but tallied 16 in the second half.  With 4:13 left in the game and UCSB leading 62-55, Davis forward Mike Kurtz scored on a lay-up to pare the deficit to five, 62-57.  Johnson responded with a pair of power lay-ups, a 15-foot jumper and three free throws to personally outscore the Aggies 9-4 and give the Gauchos a 71-61 lead with 1:06 to play.

“He (Johnson) kind of took over at that point,” said Santa Barbara head coach Bob Williams. “He has been doing a good job of getting his teammates involved offensively, but sometimes he needs to be more focused on scoring the ball.  In the second half that’s what he did.”

It was the junior’s first 20 point game since he scored a career-high 35 on Nov. 20 against Fresno State.  He also had a team-high five assists.

UCSB made eight straight free throws over the final 1:06 to clinch the win.

In the first half, the Gauchos made 7-of-10 shots from three-point range.  Two of the three-pointers in the first half were made by junior Will Brew who entered the game without a three-pointer on the season.  He added a traditional three-point play in the second half to finish with a season-high nine points.

“My shots have been falling in practice,” Brew said.  “It was just a matter of time before it happed during a game.  It felt good.”

Brew also had a pair of steals while Jordan Weiner and Justin Joyner had four apiece.  The Gauchos had 12 steals as a team, eight in the second half.

“Those guys (Brew, Joyner and Weiner) are like gnats out there,” Williams said.  “They can really fly around and disrupt.”

Santa Barbara played without injured starters Jaimé Serna (groin) and Kyle Boswell (calf), but got solid contributions from Greg Somogyi (eight points and five rebounds) and Weiner (eight points, four rebounds, two assists and four steals) in their place.

The Aggies played without starting point guard Mark Payne (ankle) and were led by Eddie Miller who had 18 points on 8-of-12 from the field.  Ryan Sypkens and Mike Kurtz each added 13.

UCSB will remain on the road for one more game when it travels to Pacific on Saturday, Jan. 8 with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.