In a phone interview yesterday afternoon, junior guard Orlando Johnson talked about his expectations for tonight’s exhibition game against Master’s College at the Thunderdome.

“Nah, don’t know anything about them,” Johnson said. “I don’t even know where they’re from. We’ve just got to come out and play, really.”

Still, the game kicks off a new season for the Gauchos in the wake of their first tournament appearance since 2002, where they lost 68-51 to Ohio State in the first round. Johnson led the Gauchos with 20 points in the game against the nation’s best — including guard Evan Turner, who was the second pick in the NBA draft and currently plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, but had a 2-13 shooting night in that game.

“Last year we were young,” Johnson said. “Now we’re juniors and seniors. Most of our main core has some experience under our belt. That’s going to help us in those close battles.”

The team returns all five starters in its three-guard, two-forward offense. Only one — guard Jordan Weiner — is a senior. The remaining four are juniors.

Last season, UCSB finished 20-10 after losing only two games at home and going 7-7 on the road. They went undefeated in conference play — a perfect 8-0 — at the Thunderdome last season. In the Big West Championships in Anaheim in early March, the Gauchos narrowly beat Long Beach State 69-64. A rematch between the two teams will open up Big West play on Dec. 28.

Johnson led all scorers last season with 18.0 points per goal, followed by junior forward James Nunnally’s 14.7.

“Man, I worked on everything since the offseason,” Nunnally said. “My handles most of all.”

Master’s College is an NAIA affiliated program that went 18-13 in 2010.

“We just go to the first NAIA Division II team that’ll play us,” Williams said.

The Gauchos tip off tonight at 7 p.m., where the Nexus will be Tweeting updates throughout the game at

“At this time of the year, there’s so many areas you have to get better at,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “But the attitudes are great and we’re unselfish right now. We’re shooting the ball extremely well.”