SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The new-look UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team saw the first action of its 2018-19 campaign Monday night at the Thunderdome, defeating Cal State San Bernardino 70-53 in a season-opening exhibition.
The Gauchos were led on offense by junior center Natalia Bruening, who led all players with 18 points and 15 rebounds on an 8-for-15 (.533) shooting night. Sophomore guard Bri Anugwom was also solid in her Gaucho debut, going for 15 points, eight boards and a game-high four steals on an efficient 5-of-8 (.625) from the field.
Bruening was extremely effective early on, getting her team out to a strong start with eight points on a perfect 4-for-4 mark in the first quarter. The opening period saw the Gauchos shoot an efficient 52.9 percent as a team to just 10 percent (2-20 FG) for the Coyotes, ending with UCSB taking a lopsided 23-4 lead into the second.
Santa Barbara's lead would balloon to as high as 27 before the halftime break, as a pair of Paris Jones free throws with 1:41 left in the second put her team up 38-11. UCSB would eventually head into the half up 38-16.
Jones – another player making her Gaucho debut – was aggressive attacking the basket, ending the first half with seven points, good for second-most behind Bruening's 14. The former LIU Brooklyn guard also had five rebounds and five assists heading into halftime, going a perfect 3-for-3 from the free throw line. She finished the game with a Gaucho-high eight assists, equaling the entire San Bernardino team.
UCSB went 9-of-12 from the stripe in the opening half, while CSUSB failed to make it to the line once.
With the game mostly in hand, it would be Anugwom's turn to shine, as she poured in 11 second half points on 4-of-6 from the field. As a team, UCSB would find its mark from long range, knocking down 4-of-8 (.500) over the final 20 minutes.
Two of those second half triples came from returners Tal Sahar and Coco Miller, who finished with 10 and seven points, respectively. Sahar made a number of dazzling plays, resulting in a second-leading four assists to go along with eight boards. Playing in her first game in nearly 20 months, Miller shot 2-of-5 (.400) from range and added six rebounds and a pair of assists.
The Gauchos will face Utah Valley on the road next Tuesday, Nov. 6 in their first official game of the regular season. Their home opener will be just three days later on Nov. 9 at 7:00 p.m. against Cal State Bakersfield.