SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team looked to earn its second straight win at home Thursday night against Cal State Fullerton, but a slow start would see the Gauchos put up just 17 first half points, leading to a 59-52 defeat.
The loss puts Santa Barbara at 4-13 overall and 1-3 in the Big West, while the Titans improved to 11-6 overall, 3-1 in conference.
Junior center Natalia Bruening tied for game-high honors with 18 points in just 13 minutes on 8-of-12 from the field, despite being in foul trouble for most of the night. Fullerton forward Daeja Smith matched Bruening with 18 points (7-14 FG) to go along with 10 boards, as the Titans fed her in the paint early and often.
Redshirt junior guard Coco Miller had an off night by her standards, finishing with six points, five rebounds and four helpers. She was one of three Gauchos to hit a three on the night, going 1-for-5 as her team shot just 16.7 percent (3-18 3FG) from deep.
"We've got to get a better rhythm offensively," said head coach Bonnie Henrickson. "We work too hard to score, we get offensive fouls, we're taking bad shots. We need to get in rhythm and drive and kick the ball out because those are the shots we make."
Bruening was mostly held in check until the fourth quarter, when she put up 12 points while hitting 6-of-10 shot attempts. While the Gauchos trailed practically the entire game, they would cut what was an 11-point Titan lead to seven heading into the fourth.
The lead didn't go below seven until the final minute. Bruening essentially converted a four-point play, first banking in a tough jumper plus a foul, and then scoring in deep following an offensive rebound to make it 54-49 with 33 seconds to go.
UCSB's slow first half proved too big a hole to climb out of though. The Gauchos trailed 27-17 at the half after shooting just 20 percent as a team in the second quarter for six points. They would outscore the Titans 18-15 in the third, scoring more points in that period than in the first two combined.
Point guard Danae Miller finished as UCSB's second-leading scorer with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting. After never scoring in double-figures through her first 32 career games, the sophomore has now done so in each of her last six. She also added four rebounds, three assists and a steal, seeing her run of nine straight games with at least four assists come to an end.
The Gauchos were outrebounded by a slim 39-to-36, but that margin could have been much wider if not for sophomore Bri Anugwom, who was back at it on the glass en route to grabbing a team-high 10 boards. Anugwom now has 24 rebounds through her last two outings.
Freshmen Megan Ormiston and Lauren Lee provided some solid minutes as well. Ormiston finished with six points, four rebounds and two blocks on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting night, while Lee tallied four points and three boards on 2-of-5 from the field.
UCSB will close out its three-game home stand against Hawaii this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at the Thunderdome.