Gauchos Host Long Beach St. in Conference Home Opener

Photo by Jeilo Gauna
Photo by Jeilo Gauna
 
The Schedule
Saturday, Jan. 19, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (3-12, 0-2) vs. Long Beach State (4-10, 1-0)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the 49ers: 52-29
Last Meeting: W, 90-74 @ LBSU (1/20/18)
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Blue-Green Recap
Despite a career-high 33 points from guard Coco Miller last Saturday at Cal Poly, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team dropped its second straight road game to open Big West play, 75-67. Miller made 6-of-10 from three-point range and 11-of-20 from the field, but a quick start for the Mustangs would see the home side shoot 50 percent as a team for the game. Cal Poly also finished with a 19-4 advantage in bench points. Guards Danae Miller and Bri Anugwom both finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.
 
Back Home In The Dome
Coming off three consecutive eight-point losses, the Gauchos (3-12, 0-2) return to the Thunderdome for their Big West home opener against Long Beach State, a team they swept last season. The 49ers (4-10, 1-0) own the second-lowest winning percentage in the conference as we pass the midpoint of the season. However, LBSU remains one of three undefeated teams during Big West play, having beaten UC Riverside in its conference-opener last Thursday. The 49ers have three players averaging double-figures, led by sophomore guard Shanaijah Davidson's 14.5 points per game. The Beach ranks dead last in the Big West in scoring defense (71.6 ppg), assists (9.6 apg) and rebounding margin (-14.5).
 
Coco Goes Off For Career-High
Redshirt junior guard Coco Miller has taken her game to new heights in recent weeks, culminating in her 33-point outburst against Cal Poly this past weekend. That wasn't just the highest scoring total of her career, but also the highest of any Big West player so far during conference play. She has now scored at least 20 points in four of her last five outings, giving her six for the season and 10 for her career. No Big West player has made more threes than Miller (37) this season, who is hitting at a career-best 35.2 percent clip. She is currently averaging 20 points per game during league play and 14.5 points overall, marks which rank third and fourth in the conference.
 
Miller Time
UCSB's starting backcourt duo of Coco and Dane Miller has done a lot of the heavy lifting for the Gauchos this season. This has been especially true over the last four games, which have seen the Millers combine to score nearly 60 percent of the team's total points. They are averaging 39.3 points on 44.1 percent shooting and 39.4 percent from three over the span, compared to 27.7 points on 33.3 percent overall and 20.9 percent from three for the rest of the team. After never reaching double-figures in scoring as a freshman, Danae Miller has scored at least 12 points in four straight. The team's leader in assists, she has also registered at least four assists in eight straight. The sophomore is seventh in the conference with an average of 4.0 helpers per game.
 
Paint Producers
Junior center Natalia Bruening's effectiveness on offense has been hit-or-miss over the last month. Aside from her 19-point showing on 7-of-12 from the field against CSUN in the Gauchos' Big West opener, she has managed to reach 10 points just one other time. She has finished with four points or fewer in three of her last four, putting up a zero in the rebound column for the second time this season in just 14 minutes at Cal Poly. When Bruening has been unable to produce though, that has given opportunites for freshman Megan Ormiston to contribute. Despite going scoreless against the Mustangs, Ormiston recorded career-highs in numerous other categories with six rebounds, a block, an assist and a steal in 24 minutes. Ormiston also slightly edges Bruening for the team-lead in field goal percentage (52.0 to 50.5 percent), but Bruening's shot total qualifies her for a No. 4 ranking in the conference, while Ormiston's doesn't.
 
Streaky Shooter
The first 15 games of the season haven't been efficient for redshirt junior guard Tal Sahar from a shooting standpoint – of the 50 Big West players with at least 27 made field goals this season, Sahar (25.9 FG%) is one of just two players shooting under 30 percent overall. However, in the five games prior to her 0-for-5 three-point showing at Cal Poly, she had been making an impact with her three-point shooting. Over that span, she knocked down nearly three triples per game (2.8), connecting at a very respectable 35.9 percent. She has also scored in double-figures four times over her last six games. Last year, she had just three double-digit performances. She ranks sixth in the Big West in three-pointers made (24) and 22nd in percentage (24.2%).
 
Anugwom Making An Impact
In her first season as a Gaucho, guard Bri Anugwom is the team's third-leading scorer (9.5 ppg) and rebounder (3.9 rpg). The former West Los Angeles CC standout has shown that she can both drive it to the basket and hit from the outside, as she ranks second among the team's guards in field goal (38.4%) and three-point percentage (33.3%). She has also been extremely reliable from the free throw line, currently sitting third in the Big West at 85.7 percent (36-42 FT). The sophomore ended a run of five straight single-digit scoring efforts at Cal Poly, going for 12 points, seven boards and three assists on 5-of-9 shooting.
 
A Tale of Two Halves
On paper, the Gauchos have been much better over the final 20 minutes of games this season than in the opening 20 minutes. In the loss to Cal Poly, UCSB was outscored in the second half (42 to 41) for the first time since Dec. 16 at Cal. The Gauchos have either outscored or matched their opponent six times in the second half, while they have headed into halftime with a lead just three times. Overall, they are being outscored by an average of 3.4 points in the second half, compared to 7.8 in the first half.
 
One Month At A Time
Santa Barbara's offense has continued to improve with each month. After averaging 52.3 points in seven games in November, the Gauchos put up 60.7 points in six December games, and are now at 66.0 points in January. They are also averaging monthly season-highs in field goal (39.8%) and three-point percentage (31.0%), assists (14.0 apg), steals (6.5 spg) and blocks (4.0 bpg).
 
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, but are being outrebounded by an average of 9.7 boards per game in losses.
 
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.