Junior Greg ‘The Storke Tower’ Somogyi had five blocked shots and junior Orlando Johnson added 31 points as the UCSB men’s basketball team beat UC Riverside 59-47 on the road Thursday night.
[media-credit id=20281 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit] Johnson scored his 1,000th career point for UCSB during the game, which improved to 6-4 in the Big West. UCR senior guard Javon Borum had 14 points for the Highlanders, which fell to 4-6 in league play. The loss was their second to the Gauchos this season.
“I liked that we fought defensively,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I don’t have a lot of concerns. The turnovers bothered us a little bit.”
UCSB committed 18 turnovers throughout the game in comparison to just nine by the Highlanders. The Gauchos dominated the offensive end, with Johnson hitting five treys in his second consecutive game breaking the 30-point barrier. The team shot a cumulative 42.1 percent from the three-point line.
“I was very fortunate tonight,” Johnson said. “I had pretty good looks so I had to knock them down.”
UCSB went on a 15-0 run early in the first half and maintained the lead throughout the rest of the game. UCR ended a 10-1 run at the end of the first half with a buzzer-beating shot to drop the UCSB lead to 31-27 heading into halftime. UC Riverside outscored the Gauchos 16-4 in interior shooting during the first half.
“We had to step it up [playing] one-on-one defense,” Johnson said. “Part of the game is you’ve got to be able to see man and ball. In the second half that was the point of emphasis.”
The second half showcased a strong defensive effort by the Gauchos.
“Somogyi really fought defensively and changed the game inside,” Williams said. “We were so much tougher defensively and extended more energy [in the second half].”
Riverside shot poorly from the field all game, shooting just 11 percent from three-point range and 32 percent overall.
Johnson’s offensive output came at the free throw line in the second half, where he made 12 of 13 attempts. Junior James Nunnally made four of his five free throws, helping UCSB hit 19 of its 22 free throws on the night.
“I’m pleased about it,” Williams said. “It’s about who gets to the foul line. With those two guys lining up, I’m pretty happy about it.”
A pair of free throws by Johnson with 5:09 to play in the second half brought the score at 51-36 and gave the Gauchos their biggest lead of the game.
UC Riverside would attempt to make runs throughout the final five minutes of play, eventually cutting the lead to nine with 1:10 remaining in the game. It was the closest the Highlanders would come for the remainder of the second half.
“As long as we keep running our stuff and get the win, we’re good,” Johnson said.
UCSB will travel south once more this weekend when it faces UC Irvine in Big West play this Saturday at 5:30 p.m.