The UCSB men’s basketball team will face its first Division I opponent Tuesday night when the team hosts visiting Santa Clara in a nonconference game.
“We are looking forward to coming out and trying to stay hot,” senior guard Orlando Johnson said.
UCSB (1-0) easily handled Division III Chapman in its season debut last Friday, beating the Panthers 74-48 behind a dominant shooting performance. While confident, the Gauchos don’t expect things to be as easy this time around against Santa Clara (1-0).
“It will be a great test for us,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “It has been an interesting competition between us the past few years.”
These teams are far from strangers. Two years ago, Santa Clara pounced on UCSB in the Thunderdome, beating the Gauchos 79-64. Last season, on the way to a 24-14 overall record (9-6 West Coast Conference) and a CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament championship in late March, Santa Clara fell victim to the Gauchos, who handed the Broncos the team’s first home loss of the year.
In that game, senior forward James Nunnally had a career-high 34 points (8-for-11), including four three-pointers while making 14 of 16 free throws. Senior forward Jaimé Serna posted 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, and Orlando Johnson poured in 16 points to go along with five rebounds. Junior guard Kevin Foster scored 25 for the Panthers.
“It gives us confidence knowing that we beat them [last season],” Johnson said. “But at the same time we have to be humbled and know that they are a good team.”
Santa Clara began its season with a convincing 80-48 win over NAIA opponent UC Merced. Foster, who led the team last season with 20.2 points per game and 3.7 assists per game, led the Broncos in their season debut with 17 points and six assists. In the win, Santa Clara made 14 three-pointers, with three different players making four or more. Foster, who led the country with 140 threes last season, made a game-high five against Merced.
“Our perimeter defense will have to be strong,” Williams said. “[Foster] looks to take about 11 [threes] a game, so we have to be ready for that.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.