Junior forward James Nunnally grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds and senior point guard Justin Joyner added a collegiate-best 12 assists in the UCSB men’s basketball team’s 86-71 win over Cal State Fullerton last night in the Thunderdome.
After losing to Fullerton in the last meeting between the two teams, UCSB (7-6 in league) has climbed to the fourth spot in Big West play. With the loss, the Titans drop to sixth place in the conference with a 5-8. CSUF senior guard Devon Peltier scored 17 of his team-high 19 points in the first half.
“The first half we gambled more [on defense],” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “[Peltier] got hot and knocked down some shots in that first half.”
UCSB hit the majority of its shots as well during the first twenty minutes of play. Led by Nunnally’s 27 points and junior Orlando Johnson’s 20, the Gauchos shot 60 percent from the field. UCSB’s bench scored 15 of the team’s 45 points in the first half.
“Balanced scoring was the key for us,” Joyner said. “When we have balanced scoring we’re harder to guard.”
Junior Greg Somogyi again proved to be an important asset for the Gauchos off the bench. “The Storke Tower” scored within 15 seconds of stepping on the floor for UCSB in the first period, and finished the half with one block and seven points, making three of his four field goal attempts.
“[Somogyi] is a big part of this team,” Joyner said. “When he plays at that level that makes us a lot better of a team offensively and defensively.”
UCSB maintained the lead throughout the second half thanks in part to aggressive play by Nunnally, who made eight of 10 free throws on the night.
“It was a phenomenal performance,” Williams said. “He was a really dynamic player. I thought he played really well.”
After leading by as many as 20 points in the first half, the Gaucho lead hovered around 10 throughout the second period. An inside basket by Fullerton junior Andre Hardy cut the lead to 71-63 with just 4:20 remaining in the game.
UCSB junior Orlando Johnson made a deep three-point shot to move the lead back to double digits, but his basket was quickly answered by a Peltier jumper that brought the score to 74-65 with 2:43 to play.
Nunnally’s NBA-range threepointer with 1:45 remaining in the game extended the Gaucho lead to 79-65 and secured the victory for UCSB.
“We want to be the team that everybody’s scared of,” Nunnally said. “If we keep the pressure and the intensity up we can do that.”
UCSB faces non-conference Boise State in an ESPN Bracketbuster game at the Thunderdome in its next game on Saturday Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.