What a weekend! After leaving the UC Irvine vs Cal State Northridge game on Thursday night, I was feeling confident and anxious about the Saturday game against the UC Santa Barbra Gauchos. Both CSUN and UCSB were tied for second place in the Big West standings at 4-3. Whoever wins this game would be bumped to a solid second place, while the other drops to third. When I got to the Thunderdome, the energy coming from both teams was very high. They were both ready to bring everything. It felt like they were playing for the final game. I knew this was going to be a close game, but I didn’t realize how close. UCSB maintained their lead throughout the first half, but CSUN was never far behind. Lenny Daniel for CSUN had been their prominent scorer the first half, while Orlando Johnson from UCSB lead with the most points. By the time halftime game, both teams were tied at 32. Looking at the halftime stats, CSUN was shooting at a much higher percentage, but they were in foul trouble, while UCSB was making the majority of their free throws. Orlando Johnson had not only been a powerhouse in the first half, but had got most of his points from free throws. UCSB’s other key player, James Nunnally, had a great dunk in the first half as well.
It was now time to play 20 minute basketball. With both teams ready for the second half, it would prove to be one of the most exciting games I’ve been at. Both teams were fairly even, going back and forth with baskets, fast breaks, blocks, and fouls. CSUN’s Rashaun McLemore had gotten into some foul trouble early in the first half, resulting in not a lot of playing time, and only 3 points scored. The second half he would change the entire momentum for him and his teammates. The clock was running down, and down the stretch was CSUN’s Dathan Lyles at the free throw line. He pushed their lead 67-61 with only 32 seconds remaining in the game. UCSB was not ready to give up anytime soon. Orlando Johnson went straight to the basket for a layup, which boosted their score to only trailing by 4 points. Rashaun McLemore was fouled immediately, sending him to the free throw line. What had seemed like a comfortable gap, was quickly turning into a very unpredictable ending. He missed the first and hit the second. CSUN now led by only 5 points, which seemed safe with only 22 seconds remaining. As time went off the clock, with only 13 seconds remaining, UCSB’s Jordan Weiner scored a 3-point basket, making it a 2 point game.
After a time out, CSUN threw the ball in but was knocked out of bounds, resulting in a turnover with possession for the Gauchos. The crowd roared with excitement. This team that only seconds before had looked like they were going to lose, had now turned the tables and could very well win it all. After yet another time out, UCSB was ready to make their final moves. They immediately passed the ball to James Nunnally, who had hit the game winning buzzer shot just days before against Cal Poly. He had a good look at the basket and a clear shot, but the ball hit one side of the rim, bouncing to the other side and over for a rebound opportunity. When Lenny Daniel from CSUN caught the ball, it went out of bounds, once again giving another chance for this UCSB team to take the win. With 7 seconds remaining, they tried to pass the ball to Orlando Johnson, who was being closely guarded by Rashaun McLemore. He was able to cut across the path where the ball was traveling and get the turn over for his team. The CSUN fans were now roaring with excitement, while the UCSB fans could not believe the opportunity that had just been theirs was now switching over again. This game was not over though. With CSUN leading by only 2 points, Rashaun had to make both free throws to have a safe lead of 4, or hit 1 free throw which would give UCSB a chance to tie for overtime. The UCSB fans tried everything they could to distract him from making his shots. The first shot went in. His second shot seemed a bit short but after bouncing around the rim, it finally went in. With only 5 seconds remaining, CSUN knew that they had secured a victory over UCSB as long as they were careful about not fouling on especially a 3 point shot. UCSB took the ball in bounds, getting it to the hands of Orlando Johnson who threw the ball up for one last 3-point attempt. The shot was good and the fans screamed in joy, but unfortunately for The Gauchos, it was not enough to get the victory. CSUN won the game 70-69. Rashaun McLemore scored a total of 26 points in 17 minutes, and 23 of his points were scored in the second half alone. This was the second game in a row where he had hit very clutch shots in resulting in the win. This win boosted CSUN to 2nd place in the Big West Conference with a record of 5-3, while UCSB was pushed down to 3rd with a record of 4-4.
Today on the Big West website he was given the weekly Men’s Basketball Honors and Big West Athlete of the Week. The games against UCI and UCSB were his first games back since being out for an injury. CSUN will be traveling to UC Riverside on Thursday for their next game. UCSB will be playing at their home on Thursday while Pacific will travel to play them.
Below are videos that I took of the CSUN vs UCSB game for the Big West Conference. There is a short version, an extended version, and the post game interview with Rashaun McLemore. Stay tuned this week for interviews with some of the greatest players around the Big West Conference!
Post Game interview with Rashaun McLemore
Game Highlights (Short Version)
Game Highlights (Extended Version)