The following is a quick take on tomorrow's nonconference game between the Gauchos and the Pilots:
In the match up between Orlando Johnson ("OJ") and Jared Stohl, the leading scorers of their respective squads, OJ should win that battle, as one can write him in for at least 20 points. The 6'5" Gaucho guard will get his points, no matter who is guarding him, even against double teams. He can post up smaller guards, or shoot over and drive past slower, bigger forwards. And he is also a good passer out of double teams.
Stohl led the nation in 3-point shooting last season with a 47.8%, and is a leading candidate to repeat. Gaucho defenders must limit his touches, know where he is at all times when Portland is on offense, and constantly have a hand in his face so he gets no easy looks.
The key to the outcome of the game could be whether James Nunnally can knock down his 3-point shot. He led the Big West Conference in 3-point shooting percentage last year, shooting 45.5%, but is only shooting 21.7% from 3-pt. range this year so far. He's had ankle problems the last 2 games, which doesn't help the elevation on his jump shot as well as his mobility, but at least he's been getting to the free throw line, where he's shooting 87.5%. Expect his 17 point per game average to increase as he improves his perimeter shooting over the course of the season. Hopefully the week off will allow his ankle to fully heal.
UCSB needs a 3rd scoring option, and that option could be Jaime Serna, who is also recovering from a leg injury (calf). He's only averaging 5.8 pps, but he should end up around 10 before the season is over.
Portland needs to have other scoring options as well, because UCSB's scrambling match up zone defense is athletic enough to contain Stohl. He's not as quick or tall as NDSU's shooters, even if his shot has good form. Luke Sikma will be a challenge for the Gauchos on the boards, but the Gauchos are much better in rebounding this year, mainly because Jon Pastorek (6'10") is now getting more minutes from Jordan Weiner (6'0"). The 7'3" Greg Somogyi should also help in neutralizing Sikma on the boards, as well as disrupting any shots from the Pilots in the interior.
The Gauchos' defense is vulnerable to smart, good passing and shooting teams, which Portland is, but if they can stay a step quicker on close outs, they should harass the Pilots' shooters enough to pull out a Gaucho win on the road, which is a tough task. The other shooter on the Pilots squad to look out for is Nemanja Mitrovic.
Prediction: Gauchos 63 - Pilots 61. OJ gets 23, and Nunnally 19.
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