San Diego State steals one from Gauchos

Close games are something San Diego State is really getting used to.

The Aztecs won their fourth straight on Saturday night, defeating UC Santa Barbara in overtime at the Thunderdome 76-75 in San Diego State’s fourth-straight game decided by four-or-less points.

James Nunnally looks to make a pass to Greg Somogyi in the post.

“It’s a veteran, experienced team and they’ve been around each other for a long time and know what it takes to win,” said San Diego starter Garrett Green, a senior transfer from LSU. “We just got the better half of it. We went to overtime, went to work, and won.”

The Aztecs improve to 7-1 on the season. Their last four wins – including two in overtime – have come by a combined 11 points. It was San Diego State’s second overtime game in its last three games.

For UCSB, the Gauchos lost their first game of the season despite leading for most of the second half and some of the overtime period.

“It’s a disappointing loss. We had a great opportunity tonight,” said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. “We felt like we were in control of the game.”

UCSB (4-1) will have another opportunity for a big win in their next game as they host UNLV on Wednesday. Vegas is 8-0 and just beat the No. 1 team in the country, North Carolina, on Saturday night.

Wednesday’s game finishes off a season-opening six-game homestand for UCSB, which will honor former coach Jerry Pimm at halftime as the next “Legend of the Dome”.

The UNLV game was very close from being a clash of unbeatens.

The Gauchos led by as many as eight points three times in the second half and also held a 70-66 edge in overtime. In the extra period, UCSB took its 70-66 lead until San Diego State scored seven unanswered. Jamaal Franklin scored the Aztecs’ final five points after Chase Tapley’s 3-pointer gave San Diego its first lead in the extra period at 71-70.

“We defended the 3-point line pretty good,” said Christian Peterson. “When they decided they wanted to get to the rim, they turned it on and really got there.”

UCSB’s last 8-point lead came at 59-51 with 5:37 remaining in regulation. But an 11-0 run from San Diego State was punctuated by an Alec Williams 3-pointer – his only points of the game – that put the Aztecs up 62-59.

Orlando Johnson answered with a 3-point play to tie the game on UCSB’s next possession. Jamaal Franklin made 1-of-2 free throws for San Diego State on their next possession to give them a 63-62 lead with 37 seconds on the clock.

Johnson had the ball in his hands on UCSB’s last turn in regulation. The senior had a game-high 26 points on the night, but elected to dish off to Jaime Serna in the paint after letting most of the clock run out. Serna drew a shooting foul with three seconds remaining, missing his first free throw but draining the second to tie the game and force overtime.

“(Jaime) made that second free throw which was huge,” Williams said. “I’m really proud of him for knocking that down and I think that bodes well for him.”

UCSB did get one last chance to win it in regulation after a quick turnover by the Aztecs following Serna’s make. The Gauchos had one second on the clock but their inbound pass found Kyle Boswell too far from the basket and his 30-foot heave was far from the mark.

Xavier Thames was San Diego’s top point-getter with 20. Thames also had 10 rebounds, six assists and a steal. Three other Aztecs reached double digits in scoring, including Tapley, Green, and Franklin. Tapley scored 16 points on 16 field goal attempts. As a team, San Diego State reached the free-throw line 39 times and won even though it shot 39-percent from the field.

The Gauchos couldn’t do better than 38.1 percent from the field as a unit.

“It was frustrating to be missing shots we felt like we should be making,” Williams said.

James Nunnally collected 16 points and eight rebounds for UCSB. Greg Somogyi blocked six shots to go with four points.

A crowd of 5,011, many of them rooting for the Aztecs, was the biggest of the season at the Thunderdome.


San Diego State's Chase Tapley tries to get a hand in Orlando Johnson's face on a jump-shot in the second half. Johnson recorded a game-high 26 points. (Presidio Sports Photos)

UCSB's 7-foot-3 backup center Greg Somogyi blocked six shots and scored four points on Saturday.