Johnson, Nunnally bring it in second half for Gauchos

James Nunnally

UCSB's James Nunnally looks for an opening between defenders on a shot attempt in the second half. (Presidio Sports Photo)

Once the juice started flowing on Tuesday, it was impossible for Portland to stop it. What started as a trickle in the first half turned into a flood as UCSB’s men’s basketball team used a strong second half to defeat visiting Portland University 83-69 at the Thunderdome.

Orlando Johnson gets to the front of the rim for two of his game-high 26 points on Tuesday night.

Johnson scored 19 of his 26 points in the final 20 minutes and totaled 12 rebounds on the night to help lead the Gauchos to a 4-0 start to the season. The star player – commonly referred to as “OJ” – scored 13 of UCSB’s 15 points in a key run during the second half.

“”When my teammates see me get into that rhythym, they start feeding me the ball a little more, just let me operate and make things happen,” Johnson said.

UCSB trailed 35-31 at halftime but outscored the Pilots by 18 in the second half.

“Once we had ball movement and really working together, you see what happened in the second half,” Johnson said.

What happened was the Gauchos catching fire in the second half. Johnson’s hot hand was complimented by an equally effective James Nunnally, who finished with 22 points. Like Johnson, Nunnally had a quiet first half before exploding in the second. The pair combined to score 37 in the second half and 48 for the game.

As a team, UCSB shot 55 percent from the floor after halftime compared to 37.5 percent before.

“I think Orlando and Nunn in the second half were just so effective,” said UCSB center Alan Williams. “They just knocked down their shots and it really got us going. We had a lot of high energy plays.”

UCSB made a serious push with just under 13 minutes left in the game. Down 49-45, UCSB took off on a 17-4 run that put the Gauchos in the lead for good.

“We got on a roll when we went small,” said Gauchos head coach Bob Williams, whose is now two wins away from overtaking Jerry Pimm for the most wins in program history.

Jaime Serna finished with season highs in scoring and rebounding thanks to his first double-double of the season.

“The more Jaime gets the ball, the more Jaime gets confident about it, the more he goes to work,” Williams said.

As a team, the Gauchos out-rebounded Portland 45-28. Williams produced eight points, eight rebounds and a block in 12 minutes off the bench.

Portland, who was led in scoring by Ryan Nicholas’ 16, connected on only 38.6 percent of their field goal attempts throughout the game. Nemanja Mitrovic and Tanner Riley also reached double-digit scoring but needed 23 shots to score 24 points between the two of them.

UCSB moves on to host San Diego State on Saturday, which will be the fifth game of a season-opening six-game homestand for the Gauchos.