Gauchos win game, possibly lose Serna

Orlando Johnson, who finished with 23 points, drives to the basket in the first half. (Presidio Sports)

A 2-0 start to Big West play was dampened by a wrist injury to Jaime Serna on Thursday in UCSB’s 77-64 defeat of visiting Cal State Fullerton at the Thunderdome.

Serna came down hard after being upended on a blocking foul while attacking the basket in the second half. He grimaced and held his wrist for a few seconds before getting up. With two free throws coming his way, Serna took himself out of the game.

“I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m very nervous about it,” said Gauchos head coach Bob Williams.

Serna was going to have an x-ray taken. His loss would greatly impact UCSB if for an extended period of time. The 6-foot-7 forward had eight points and eight rebounds before getting injured.

“We’ve all seen how big an impact Jaime has on the game when he’s playing well,” Williams said.

Orlando Johnson led all scorers with 23 points. The senior had a poor shooting night from the field but he converted 10-of-11 free throws and collected eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks.

“Coach just kept telling me to be aggressive,” explained Johnson.

Isiah Umipig’s 18 was high for Fullerton, which falls to 2-1 in league and 10-4 overall. DJ Seeley added a double-double for the Titans with 15 points and 10 boards.

The two wins to start conference play is some consolation to Serna’s injury.

“I think 2-0 right now is right where we want to be at,” said Keegan Hornbuckle. “Everyone’s happy about it. That’s what really matters in the end is the league win.”

Keegan Hornbuckle

Keegan Hornbuckle delivers a pass around the perimeter.

Hornbuckle is working his way back from missing more than a season with a leg injury. In 19 minutes, Hornbuckle totaled nine points, five rebounds, and two blocks.

“My legs are still giving me some trouble but they’re starting to feel a lot better,” Hornbuckle said.

All nine of Hornbuckle’s came in the first half, when UCSB outscored Fullerton 30-11 on an extended run going into halftime with a 35-21 lead.

“We were affecting a lot of their shots but we also got lucky; they were missing some easy ones that I know they normally make,” Hornbuckle said.

The Titans could only connect on 22.9 percent of their field goals in the first half. Fullerton finished the night shooting 34.2 percent as a team even though it got better in the second half.

“I actually felt like Keegan really sparked us that first half. He was the key to the first half,” Williams thought.

James Nunnally also had a big first half with 13 points. Nunnally finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists.

From there, the Gauchos merely held the Titans in check, actually getting outscored by one in the final 20 minutes. Umipig came alive to score 14 of his 18 in the second half.

Umipig helped Fullerton hang around within striking distance but never could break under eight points.

Long Beach State also won, placing the 49ers and the Gauchos in an early first-place tie at 2-0 in conference.

The Gauchos used a different starting lineup from the last time they played at the Thunderdome on November 30th. Freshman Alan Williams has found a place in the starting lineup.

“Al has worked his way into having a chance to start,” said coach Williams.

The starting five may have to be shuffled more without Serna.

“It changes the complexion of our team dramatically,” Williams said, speaking in what he hoped were hypothetical terms.

The Gauchos play again next Thursday at UC Riverside. Then they are home on Saturday hosting UC Irvine.