While UCSB’s 78-70 victory over UNLV’s national championship team in 1990 remains the most significant regular-season men’s basketball game at the Thunderdome, for sheer excitement, it would be hard to top last Saturday night’s double-overtime classic between the Gauchos and the Runnin’ Rebels. It was a roller-coaster ride of a game that took all sorts of crazy twists and turns before UNLV secured a 94-88 win.
How many times have you seen a player succeed in parlaying a purposely missed free throw into a two-point basket? UCSB’s Orlando Johnson pulled it off, following his own lobbed shot, stripping the ball away from a UNLV player to teammate Greg Somogyi, who laid the ball in as the buzzer sounded, sending the game into overtime.
Then there were the clutch shots in overtime, three free throws by UCSB’s James Nunnally, answered by Chace Stanback’s three-pointer that tied the score again, almost topped by Johnson’s 40-footer at the buzzer that hit the back of the rim. There were the two charging calls on Nunnally that wiped out Gaucho points — calls that were legitimate, but oh so painful to the loud crowd of 5,361.
“This game should be on ESPN,” declared Jerry Pimm, the former UCSB coach who did some radio commentary.
Mark French remembers a game like it when he was coaching the Gaucho women’s team. In February 2003, they visited fourth-ranked LSU and played an epic three-overtime game. “Too bad we lost then, too [94-90],” French said.
This brings me to recount 11 instances in which heroic shots resulted in UCSB victories.
Big Game James (Nov. 27, 2007): After erasing a 13-point UNLV lead in the second half, UCSB had the ball with four seconds remaining and the score tied. James Powell took a pass at the top of the key and hit a three-point shot with four-tenths of a second remaining for a 63-60 victory at the Thunderdome.
In the Nick of Time (Dec. 22, 2001): UCSB trailed Cal State Fullerton 62-61 on the road with 1.2 seconds on the game clock. Branduinn Fullove heaved a three-quarter–court pass to Mark Hull, who tipped it to Nick Jones, who buried a three-pointer for a 64-62 win. That team went on to reach the NCAA tournament.
Nunn’s the One (Mar. 7, 2009): UCSB was down by two to Long Beach State at the Thunderdome with 6.8 seconds remaining. Will Brew dribbled the length of the court and fed the ball to fellow freshman James Nunnally, who swished a three-pointer for a 76-75 victory.
And Again (Jan. 27, 2011): Nunnally’s running shot at the buzzer stunned Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, 71-70.
Killer B.J. (Jan. 16, 1999): The Spectrum in Logan, Utah, was a death trap for the Gauchos when Utah State was in the Big West. But in Bob Williams’s first season as their head coach, they took the Aggies into overtime, and with seven-tenths of a second remaining, B.J. Bunton sank a three-pointer from the corner for a 66-65 upset.
Saved by O.J. (Jan. 23, 2010): The Gauchos needed a three in the final seconds to avoid losing to Cal State Fullerton on their home court, and Orlando Johnson provided it, shooting from the corner over two defenders to tie the score, 72-72. UCSB won in overtime, 85-80.
Hansen’s Heart-Thumper (Mar. 15, 2002): On the brink of losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Gauchos sent Louisiana Tech’s Cheryl Ford to the line with seven seconds remaining and the renowned Lady Techsters leading by a point at Austin, Texas. Ford, the daughter of NBA great Karl Malone, missed her free throw; Lindsay Taylor rebounded and passed to Jess “Frankie” Hansen, who swished a jumper with 1.1 seconds on the clock, giving UCSB a 57-56 victory.
Close Call (Mar. 13, 1993): Cori Close pumped in a three-pointer that was a dagger in the heart of nationally ranked Hawai‘i in the Big West Tournament championship game. The Gauchos, who had started the season 0-6, defeated the Rainbow Wahine, 80-77. Close is now the head women’s coach at UCLA.
Shadwell Done (Nov. 30, 1997): Stephanie Shadwell had gone 0-for-6 from the floor against fifth-ranked Florida at the Thunderdome, but when she got the ball in her hands with two seconds to play, she fired and hit the game-winning basket, 88-86.
Tape-Measure Shot (Dec. 15, 1997): Stacy Clinesmith, UCSB’s sparky 5′5″ guard, let the ball fly from outside the three-point arc — at San Diego State’s end of the court — and her 65-foot shot banked into the hoop as time expired. Instead of going into overtime, the Gauchos stunned the host Aztecs, 82-79.
J-Rock Rocks (Dec. 17, 2005): Trailing UCLA by a basket with eight seconds remaining, Jessica “J-Rock” Wilson rebounded a missed free throw by the Bruins and raced the length of the court to make a game-tying layup. Wilson scored 11 points in overtime and UCSB won, 90-81.