Senior guard Orlando Johnson scored 16 points for the Gauchos to break UCSB’s all-time scoring record Saturday night as the UCSB men’s basketball team defeated visiting Cal Poly 68-60.
“It shows all the hard work I have put in,” Johnson said of his accomplishment. “The confidence Coach has in me, and my teammates believing in me … it is a great honor.”
With ESPNU national television cameras in the house, the Thunderdome was packed and loud to welcome the team back home for only the second time in 35 days.
“It felt great to be home,” senior guard James Nunnally said. “The fans came out tonight and supported us, and we love that.”
Needing only three points to surpass Alex Harris as the school’s all-time leading scorer, Johnson came out firing. He hit his first two shots of the game, the second a three-pointer that gave him the record. The Seaside, Calif., native now has 1,710 career points in only three seasons for UCSB, after transferring from Loyola Marymount following his freshman year.
“Orlando has been a special player,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He has had an unbelievable career, and to set this record in only three years is a great accomplishment … he has improved so much because he works on his game so hard — he is relentless.”
Nunnally, who currently has 1,570 career points for the Gauchos putting him at No. 6 all-time, shared his coach’s sentiments about his teammate and friend.
“I’m proud of that guy, man,” Nunnally said of his former freshman roommate. “Ever since he got here he has worked hard, always in the gym … I’m really proud of him; that’s one of my best friends.”
Up 21-16 in the first half, the Gauchos got hot offensively. Behind seven points from Nunnally, UCSB ran off an 11-0 run to extend its lead to 32-16. Both Johnson and Nunnally reached double figures by halftime, but 10 offensive rebounds by Cal Poly kept them within striking distance at 31-40.
“I liked how we played tonight,” Williams said. “I liked our energy level … we are a team that is getting better … I was happy with our effort in the second half, especially on the boards after that first half.”
Cal Poly fought to cut the deficit to seven on multiple occasions early in the second half, but could get no closer. With the score at 49-42, Johnson took over. The senior captain assisted on three-pointer from junior guard Nate Garth, then scored five straight points capped off by a steal and slam dunk on the ensuing fast break. Johnson hung on the rim and slapped the backboards; he was consequently whistled for a technical foul on the play.
“I just got a little too emotional,” Johnson said.
Santa Barbara had trouble closing out the Mustangs, but held off its rivals just long enough. The final eight-point lead was the Gauchos’ smallest since the first half.
UCSB will play its final two games of the season this week at home, against Pacific on Thursday and UC Davis on Saturday. After that is the Big West Tournament, beginning next Thursday.
“We are just trying to get better every game,” Nunnally said. “We have been improving every game and are on the right track heading into the conference tournament.”