Junior Orlando Johnson lit up the scoreboard Saturday night and Fresno State was helpless defensively. Johnson scored a career-high 35 points and added 11 rebounds – a career-high as well – to lead UCSB to a 69-54 win over the Bulldogs.
"This is a great team we played," said Fresno State head coach Steve Cleveland.
"We took it to another for a period of time, but I was really disappointed in our wing play. We need to take better care of the ball."
Fresno State was blitzed early and plagued by turnovers and poor shooting and fell behind 11-0 against a veteran Gaucho ballclub in the games first four minutes.
After the woeful start, the Bulldogs were able to claw back into the game behind sophomore center Greg Smith who led the way with 10 points and six rebounds in the first half.
Johnson had it going early and often against the ‘Dogs and no defenders had an answer for his inside/outside abilities. Johnson finished with 23 points in the first half, while the Bulldogs scored 24 as a team and went into halftime trailing 35-24.
FS was able to open the second half on a 7-0 run behind a much better defensive effort and energy on both ends of the floor, especially the offensive glass. The Gauchos answered with a 17-4 run led by the sensational Johnson, whom the ‘Dogs had no answer for and struggled finding a defender who could contain him anywhere on the court.
"When they made their run in the second half, I just stayed calm and kind of took it upon myself to end it," said Johnson, who made 13-of-19 field goals overall and 4-of-5 from 3-point range. "It was just one of those games when everything felt really good for me."
After the answer by UCSB, FS would pull no closer than seven, at 57-50, with four minutes to go. The Gauchos proved too much and the young ‘Dogs ran out of gas and continued their careless play with 11 second half turnovers, finishing with 18 on the night.
Leading the way for Fresno State was Smith with 15 points – on 7-of-8 shooting – and 10 rebounds, while freshman guard Kevin Olekaibe finished with 10 points and four assists in the point guard role. No other Bulldog scored in double figures, but freshman guard Tyler Johnson chipped in seven points off the bench.
The ‘Dogs shot 40% from the field compared to 50% for UCSB, and FS only shot 4-18 from the three-point line.
Fresno State returns to action Friday night at the Save Mart Center when they host the Washington State Cougars at 7pm.
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Greg Smith was more active and asserted himself against a better front line.
Two good stretches of solid basketball on both ends of the floor (last 5-7 minutes of first half, first 5-7 minutes of second half).
Tyler Johnson with solid production in a reserve role
Bracken Funk's energy and aggressiveness.
Kevin Olekaibe with 10 points and four assists.
The Bulldogs were not prepared to play Saturday night.
Turnovers plagued them all night (Jonathan Wills with six turnovers).
Inability to post pass or pass accurately within offense.
Inability to stop penetration.
Lack of focus.
Inaccurate perimeter shooting and inability to set feet to get good shots.
Coaching staff failing to recognize Jonathan Wills was not the best option to defend Orlando Johnson.
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