SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team opened its 2020-21 Big West Conference season with a 64-60 loss to the UC Irvine Anteaters on Sunday night at the Thunderdome.
Senior point guard Danae Miller led UCSB (0-5, 0-1 Big West) with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting and junior transfer Taylor Mole scored 15 points in her debut, but a UC Irvine (3-4, 1-0 Big West) team led by Kayla Williams' 21 points proved too much to handle on the opening night of Big West Conference play.
"She did a nice job. She's long, she blocked three shots and helped us on the glass. That's what we see every day, so we're not surprised, but it's nice to see her do it in uniform. She can score and she can bring a lot to the table," said UCSB head coach Bonnie Henrickson of Mole's first game as a Gaucho.
Irvine scored the first five points of the game after drawing some early fouls from the Gauchos, but redshirt senior guard Doris Jones led the response by drilling a three-pointer and freshman guard Anya Choice provided the follow-up with a layup off an Anteater turnover to tie the game at 5-5.
Those first UCI possessions served as a microcosm of the first quarter, though, as the Anteaters kept the Gauchos from getting in rhythm by continuing to draw shooting fouls and forcing turnovers as the hosts struggled to establish fluidity in their game.
The Anteaters would go to the free throw line four separate times in the quarter and score seven points off six turnovers to claw back from an 11-7 deficit to take a 17-13 lead at the end of the first frame off a 10-2 run.
It wasn't until the third quarter that there would be significant separation between the two rivals on the scoreboard. After the Gauchos tied up the score twice in the early minutes of the third quarter, UC Irvine's Tahlia Garza got the Anteaters ahead by a possession after converting on a fast-break layup.
The Gauchos couldn't convert on their next opportunity, and Kayla Williams punished them for it with an and-one on a fast-break layup, and that was succeeded by a Gaucho turnover that Dani Guglielmo cashed in on a corner three, forcing UCSB to call timeout. After the huddle, yet another turnover led to another Williams layup, capping off a 12-4 run that gave UCI a 39-29 lead with 5:38 to go in the third quarter.
UCSB would cut the deficit back down to one score in the middle of the fourth quarter off a Danae Miller and-one layup, but UC Irvine successfully managed to keep its lead through to the final buzzer.
"We've got to get players off the glass. [We gave up] 22 offensive rebounds. Until we take personal responsibility for that, we've got to create some contact and handle the physicality," said Henrickson.
With all the Gauchos' conference games scheduled to be played in a back-to-back format, the team will be back in action tomorrow night against the Anteaters at 5 PM. The matchup will be streamed on ESPN3 and live stats will be available on UCSBGauchos.com.