New Year Starts With Big West Opener at CSUN

New Year Starts With Big West Opener at CSUN
The Schedule
Saturday, Jan. 5, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (3-10) vs. CSUN (6-8)
The Matadome – Northridge, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Matadors: 44-19
Last Meeting: L, 48-30 @ UCSB (1/31/18)
New Mexico State Recap
UC Santa Barbara nearly dug itself out of a 16-point first half hole in its final game of 2018 against New Mexico State this past Sunday, thanks to 22-point efforts from both Coco Miller and Danae Miller. The Gauchos set a new season-high in points and would cut the Aggie lead to just two points in the final minutes, but it wasn't enough as they fell, 81-73.
Big West Begins in Northridge
Santa Barbara's loss to NMSU moved it into a tie with Long Beach State (3-10) for the eighth-best record in the Big West. However, the Gauchos have a clean slate in front of them with the start of conference play this Saturday against a CSUN team coming off its second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four years. The Matadors are led by senior center Channon Fluker, who recently tied a 22-year conference record by winning her 13th Big West Player of the Week award. She averages a double-double with 16.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game and leads the nation averaging 3.71 blocks. The two teams split their meetings last year, with both road teams coming away victorious. The last time they met on Feb. 1, 2018, the the Gauchos were held to their eighth-lowest scoring total ever in a 48-30 defeat.
Miller Time
It has been a career year for guard Coco Miller, who has taken her play to a new level of late. After beginning her redshirt junior season with four career 20-point games, Miller has surpassed that with five such outings through 13 games this year, scoring at least 20 in each of her last three. Over that span, she is averaging 23.7 points and four three-pointers per game on a 37.5 percent mark from downtown. She ranks second in the conference in triples per game (2.2) and 10th in three-point percentage (34.9%). Her increased offensive output has also seen her attempt a career-high 19 field goals in two straight contests. A long-range threat for most of her career, Miller (140 3FG) is closing in on Makala Roper (152) for No. 6 in the UCSB record book.
Miller Time... Part II
With her team needing increased aggressiveness and playmaking, point guard Danae Miller has also answered the call in recent games. The sophomore out of Long Beach Polytechnic set new career-highs in scoring in each of her last two games, putting up 16  points (5-11 FG) in the win at SDSU and 22 (7-11 FG) against New Mexico State. While she attempted more than two free throws just once in 25 games as a freshman, Miller has made at least five in each of her last three outings, including going 7-for-12 last week against the Aggies. Over her last three, she is averaging 15 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game.
Streaky Shooter
Over the last four games, redshirt junior guard Tal Sahar has had three of her four highest scoring totals of the season. Not one to shy away from pulling the trigger, the former Seattle Redhawk is second in the conference in three-point attempts (85) and sixth in three-point baskets (21). She is hitting at a 24.7 percent clip that is good for 22nd in the Big West. Sahar recently had perhaps the best two-game stretch of her career in games against Cal and California Baptist. She recorded double-figures in back-to-back games for the first time as a Gaucho, averaging 16.5 points and hitting 3.5 threes per game at a 41.2 percent clip. Her season-high of 20 points against Cal saw her knock down a career-best 6-of-10 from range. Sahar also leads the UCSB bench in scoring at 7.4 points per contest. 
Anugwom Making An Impact
First-year Gaucho Bri Anugwom has been a key contributor for UCSB in her first 13 games at the D-I level, coming in third on the team in points (9.5) and minutes (26.8) and first in three-point percentage (36%). The former West Los Angeles CC standout has been extremely reliable from the free throw line as well, currently sitting second in the Big West at 84.4 percent (27-32 FT). She has hit a bit of a slump the past three games, posting 5.67 points per game on just 19.2 percent from the field. In the three games prior to that, she had been averaging 15.3 points on 57.1 percent shooting.
Nat In The Middle
Junior center Natalia Bruening's impact has been somewhat hit-or-miss over the past few weeks. After a six-game stretch where she hit double-digits in the scoring department five times, she has now been held to single-digits three times over her last four. In the last two games, Bruening has averaged just 3.5 shot attempts, 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per contest. Despite her numbers dipping of late, she still leads the team with top-10 Big West averages of 6.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game and a 48.9 field goal percentage.
Get On The Glass!
In the four games which the Gauchos have outrebounded their opponents, UCSB boasts a 3-1 record, with the only loss coming to CBU. They are averaging a +14 rebounding margin in their three wins this year. 
Starting Lineup Shuffle
UCSB used six different starting lineups through its first eight games this year, but that has stabilized of late with the return of Danae Miller, who was re-inserted to the starting lineup in the last four after being injured to start the season. Coco Miller and Natalia Bruening are the only Gauchos who have started every game thus far. Bri Anugwom and Lauren Lee have also cemented themselves in the starting lineup.
New Talent
The 2018-19 Gauchos feature an overhauled roster with seven new faces, including four freshmen: forward Megan Ormiston (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley HS) and guards DeLauna Thomas (Gardena, Calif./Serra HS), Lauren Lee (River Forest, Ill./Trinity HS) and Kiana Vierra (Honolulu, Hawaii/Kamehameha-Kapalama School). Redshirt senior guard Paris Jones also joins the team after four seasons at LIU Brooklyn, where she averaged 4.4 points and 1.1 assists in 62 games. Sophomore Bri Anugwom gets her first taste of Division I basketball after a freshman year at West Los Angeles CC where she averaged 20.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 46.8 percent from the field. Rounding out the newcomers is junior guard/forward Celeste Salazar, who comes to UCSB after averaging 6.0 points and 4.2 rebounds last season at Ventura College.