Nunnally’s season-high sits well with Gauchos

James Nunnally scored a season-high 28 points and had a career-high eight assists with no turnovers and Orlando Johnson had 24 points and nine rebounds as UC Santa Barbara defeated visiting Pacific on Thursday night, 76-61.

The Gauchos (17-9 overall, 11-4 in the Big West) used a 19-5 spurt in the second half to break open a close game.  Ross Rivera led the Tigers (11-17 overall, 6-9 in the Big West) with 17 points.  The win was UCSB’s second straight and fifth in the last six games.

“James has been getting better and better all year,” said UCSB head coach Bob Williams.  “He did so many good things tonight and to see that he had eight assists and no turnovers is huge.”

Nunnally also recorded a career-high six three-point baskets and Johnson tied his season-high with four as UCSB made a season-high 12 as a team.

“Things are clicking pretty well for us right now,” Nunnally said.  “We’ve been practicing hard and I think we’re in as good a shape as we’ve been all year.  That’s helped us close games out.”

The lead changed hands and was tied four times apiece in the first half.  The Tigers tied the game at 36 apiece with just two seconds left when Marvin Cotton intercepted a wayward UCSB pass and scored on a breakaway lay-up.

Santa Barbara’s lead was still just 52-51 after Pacific’s Travis Fulton made a lay-up with 12:13 to play, but that’s when the Gauchos started their 19-5 surge.  Nunnally scored the first six points in the run and finished with nine of his 28 over just under eight minutes.

Johnson added eight points during the stretch while freshman Alan Williams had four.  Johnson made one out of two free throws with 4:18 left in the game to complete the rally and give the Gauchos a 71-56 lead. A three-pointer by Rivera pulled the Tigers back within 71-59, but UCSB answered with another Johnson lay-up and Nunnally’s final three-pointer to take a 76-59 lead with 2:56 left.

Serna joined Nunnally and Johnson in double-figures with 10 points.  Trevin Harris and Khalil Kelley each added nine points for Pacific.

Johnson, who became UCSB’s all-time leading scorer in its last game, has now scored 1,734 points in his career.  Nunnally’s 28 points pushed him past Mark Hull and into fifth-place on the all-time list. He now needs just two points to become the fifth player in school history to score 1,600 in his career and 10 to pass Chris Devine for fourth all-time.

The Gauchos remain at home for their regular season finale on Saturday against UC Davis.  The five UCSB seniors – Orlando Johnson, James Nunnally, Jaimé Serna, Greg Somogyi and Christian Peterson – will be honored prior to the game against the Aggies.

Ross Rivera spearheaded an effort by the Pacific bench that resulted in a 29-8 advantage in bench scoring for the Tigers. Rivera led all Pacific scorers with 17 points in 27 minutes off the bench.