UCSB Travels to Hawaii Wednesday, Hosts Irvine Saturday

Natalia Bruening (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Natalia Bruening (Photo by Tony Mastres)
 
The Schedule
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at 9:00 p.m. (PST)
UC Santa Barbara (5-17, 2-7) at Hawaii (9-13, 5-4)
Stan Sheriff Center – Honolulu, O'ahu
All-Time Record vs. the Rainbow Wahine: 16-28
Last Meeting: L, 47-35 @ UCSB (1/26/19)
 
Saturday, Feb. 16, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (5-17, 2-7) vs. UC Irvine (15-5, 5-3)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Anteaters: 65-32
Last Meeting: L, 74-68 @ UCI (1/31/19)
 
Stunning Comeback Win Over CSUN
UC Santa Barbara pulled off a remarkable comeback win at home over CSUN this past Saturday, knocking off the Matadors 61-60 after ending the game on a 7-0 run. The Gauchos trailed for most of the second half and found themselves down 60-54 with just under a minute remaining. However, in a sequence which would have made NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller proud, UCSB would shock the Matadors and tie the game by scoring six points in the span of five seconds. Fittingly, it was a pair of players who just happened to be named Miller, too; Coco Miller and Danae Miller both knocked down clutch threes, and it was Coco who also stole the inbounds pass to set up Danae for the tying shot. Bri Anugwom went on to hit the game-winning free throw with eight seconds left, helping to end a five-game skid for the Gauchos.
 
Big West Picture
With the midpoint of the Big West season now behind us, UCSB (5-17, 2-7) still finds itself tied with Cal Poly (5-15, 2-7) for the conference's No. 8 seed, just one game back from seventh-place Cal State Fullerton (11-11, 3-6). While Cal Poly currently holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Gauchos will get their chance to equal the season series when they host the Mustangs on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
 
It's Miller Time
Redshirt junior guard Coco Miller has not been at her most efficient since the start of conference play. After shooting at career-high levels of efficiency during non-conference play (38.6 FG% and 34.9 3FG%), her averages have dropped to 25.6 percent overall and 23.5 percent from three-point range since the start of January. Despite this, there is still no question that Miller's play remains one of the team's most important keys to success. She leads the Gauchos in scoring ranking sixth in the conference with 13.1 points and third with 2.0 triples per game. Her six 20-point games are also the fourth-most in the Big West, while her career-high assist (2.8) and steal averages (2.0) rank 13th and fifth.
 
Increased Aggression
Sophomore point guard Danae Miller has provided some much-needed backcourt help playing beside Coco Miller, with her production jumping significantly from year one to two. Danae is the Gauchos' second-leading scorer (10.9 ppg) during league play, hitting double-figures in seven of her last 11 outings. She has also been one of UCSB's most consistent playmakers, recording four or more assists in 11 of her last 15. Aside from scoring, she also ranks in the Big West's top-15 for both assists (3.9 apg, 5th) and rebounds (5.9 rpg, 11th).
 
Paint Producer
Natalia Bruening has been one of the Gauchos' top players since becoming the team's starting center heading into her junior season. Bruening has had at least 13 points in four of UCSB's five wins this year, and recently ended a three-game slump with 15 points on 6-of-11 (.545) shooting in the win over CSUN. She leads the Gauchos with 5.9 rebounds per game and is fourth in the conference in field goal percentage (.503).
 
Making An Impact
In her first season as a Gaucho, sophomore guard Bri Anugwom has been a key role player, coming in third on the team in scoring (9.3 ppg) and maintaining the highest free throw percentage (.852) in the conference. The former West Los Angeles CC standout had cooled off offensively until the last two weeks, when she scored in double-figures in three out of four games, averaging 12.5 points on 48.6 percent shooting. She has also been crashing the boards with regularity, currently sitting in fourth during conference play with 7.1 boards per game.
 
Beyond-The-Arc
UCSB has taken a step back this year in terms of its three-point efficiency, shooting a league-low 24.3 percent as a team in 2019. The worst may be behind the Gauchos though, as they seem to have gotten back on track somewhat in recent weeks. They nailed a season-high 10 three-pointers on 33 attempts (.303) against the UC Riverside two Saturdays ago, and their 28 made threes over the last four games are tied for the second-most over a four-game span this season. Late threes were also the reason for their last-minute comeback win over the Matadors. The team had been enjoying an upward trend in its three-point shooting each year under Bonnie Henrickson, going from 29.8 percent in 2015-16, to 34.2 and 35.2 percent in the two following years, but that has dropped to 25.6 percent in 2018-19. Surprisingly, the outside shooting issues have been more noticeable at home, where UCSB has shot 21.0 percent from range, compared to 29.5 percent away from the Thunderdome.
 
Get On The Glass!
Rebounds had been an early predictor of success for the Gauchos, who started the year 4-1 when outrebounding their opponent. Since then, surprisingly, they have lost their last three when winning the rebound battle. They are averaging a +11.6 rebounding margin in their five wins this year and a -6.8 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.