LAS VEGAS -- Initially, this would've been a big win for UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos, though, are getting accustomed to these high-profile victories.
"We've won at UNLV and at UCLA before," coach Bob Williams said after the Gauchos held off No. 22 UNLV 68-62 Wednesday night.
"Those are tough venues. The big wins are in league championships and in the postseason. This was a big test for us tonight," he said.
James Nunnally scored 23 points to lead UCSB (5-3) to its third straight win over the Rebels. The Gauchos made 50 percent of their shots (22-of-44), with Orlando Johnson contributing 12 points and 15 rebounds and Jaime Serna adding 12 points.
Johnson has scored in double figures during all 37 games of his college career.
"This is a huge win," Johnson said. "I wanted to get in their heads. It was going to be a battle. We traveled too far to lose."
UC Santa Barbara took the lead for good at 40-38 on Justin Joyner's 3-pointer with 16:47 left. UNLV got within 58-57 with 2:44 left by pulling off an 11-2 run.
Orlando Johnson made two free throws, Jaime Serna had a jump shot and Nunnally had two free throws that increased the Gauchos' lead to 64-57. Nunnally made four free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal it.
Nunnally, who shoots from close to the left edge of the free-throw circle, had the Gauchos" last six points, all from the foul line.
"I went to the left side of the line in junior high school because my coach noticed I was missing them to the right," Nunnally said. "And I went 31-of-35 the rest of the season."
"It's a huge win. This is the Mountain West. They were chanting Big West is Division II.' We wanted to prove that we could compete with the No. 22 team in the nation. The No. 22 team in the nation should not have an off-night at home," he said.
UCSB shot 9-of-19 on 3-pointers while UNLV hit only 6-of-29 of its 3s.
"Anytime you lose you feel bad," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "At home, it's worse. We have to take better care of the ball. When you make shots it covers things up. When you don't make shots a lot of things come out and get you."
"We fought late in the first half. We were beginning to open up well in the second half. We've been opening up well lately. Tonight we didn't open up well. They played a really good zone. When you dig yourself a hole early, it takes a toll."
The Rebels scored the last 12 points of the first half to make it 30-all. The Gauchos had an earlier 9-0 run on 3-pointers by Nunnally, Johnson and Jon Pastorek.
- Tony Padilla
- Michael Irving
- Bobby McRoy