New Women's Basketball Season Tips Off Tuesday at Utah Valley, Home Opener Friday vs. CSUB

Paris Jones (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
Paris Jones (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)

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The Schedule
Tuesday, Nov. 6 2018 at 10:00 a.m. (PT)
UC Santa Barbara at Utah Valley
UCCU Center – Orem, Utah
All-Time Record vs. the Wolverines: 1-0
Last Meeting: W, 86-58 @ UCSB (1/11/07)

Live Stats Video

Friday, Nov. 9 2018 at 7:00 p.m. (PT)
UC Santa Barbara vs. CSU Bakersfield
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Roadrunners: 6-2
Last Meeting: W, 61-60 @ UCSB (11/19/18)

Live Stats Video

Exhibition Win
Fans of Gaucho women's basketball got their first look at the 2018-19 squad last Monday in a 70-53 exhibition win over Cal State San Bernardino. UC Santa Barbara showed some flashes of what it could be capable of this year, including a dominant first quarter in which it outscored the Coyotes 23-4. Center Natalia Bruening led all players with 18 points (8-15 FG) and 15 rebounds, including eight points on a perfect 4-of-4 from the field in the opening period. Impressive showings were also provided by a couple of Gaucho debutants, as guards Bri Anugwom and Paris Jones stuffed the stat sheet out of the backcourt. Anugwom was the game's second-leading scorer with 15 point (5-8 FG), also pulling down eight boards and grabbing four steals. Jones scored all seven of her points in the opening half and finished with a game-high eight assists.

Opening Tip
UCSB opens the 2018-19 regular season on the road, facing Utah Valley this Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. (PT). The only previous meeting between the two teams came on Jan. 11, 2007, a game which the eventual Big West regular season champion Gauchos dominated en route to taking an 86-58 win. The Wolverines enter the season fresh off an 11-19 overall, 5-9 conference mark in 2017-18 and a first round exit in the WAC Tournament. They bring back two starters from last year, led by junior Jordan Holland who leads the returners at 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

On Friday, the Gauchos return to Santa Barbara for their home-opener against CSU Bakersfield, another Western Athletic Conference (WAC) team which is set to join the Big West starting in the 2020-21 season. The Roadrunners went 18-14 overall and 10-4 in conference play last year, coming up just a few points short of winning the WAC Tournament in a 57-54 loss to Seattle in the championship game. The last time UCSB faced CSUB was in a 61-60 home win on Nov. 19, 2015, giving head coach Bonnie Henrickson her first win at the helm of the Gauchos.

Look Back to Last Year
After increasing its win total in three straight seasons, UCSB finished at 12-17 overall in 2017-18 with a 9-7 record in the Big West. The No. 4 seeded Gauchos ended their year with a 72-63 defeat to No. 5 seed CSUN in the Big West Tournament Quarterfinals. Forward Drew Edelman earned All-Big West First Team honors after averaging team-highs of 16.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and leading the conference in field goal percentage (.570).

Key Returners
Among UCSB's six returners, none has accomplished more in a Gaucho uniform than guard Coco Miller, who enters her redshirt junior season after missing all of last year. The San Clemente, Calif. native has career averages of 9.0 points and 2.1 assists per game, while her 111 total three-pointers are good for seventh in program history. Accompanying Miller in the backcourt is point guard Danae Miller, the lone returner from last year's starting lineup. As a freshman, she posted 3.2 points and 2.7 assists per game, averaging 19.7 minutes in 21 starts.

Expected to play a bigger role this year are juniors Tal Sahar and Natalia Bruening. In her first season playing for the Gauchos, Sahar averaged 4.2 points per game, knocking down 24 three-pointers. She showed an ability to take over games at times, setting a program record with a 17-point second quarter against Cal Poly and pouring in a career-high 21 points in 18 minutes against UC Riverside, the most points by anyone off the bench all year. Bruening has started just two games in two seasons with the team, but will likely see many more starts as the Gauchos' focal point in the paint. Last year, she averaged 2.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game and was second on the team with a 44.4 field goal percentage.

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 will get 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.

Big West Preseason Poll
Announced two weeks ago by the conference, UCSB was selected in both the media and coaches poll to finish seventh. CSUN was selected to finish first in the coaches poll, while UC Davis topped the media poll.

From Distance
UCSB continued an upward trend in its long-range shooting last year, increasing both its total three-point makes and percentage for the fourth straight season. After going just 76-for-307 (24.8 percent) in 2014-15, UCSB has consistently improved its three-point prowess under head coach Bonnie Henrickson. In 2015-16, UCSB doubled its output from the year prior, going 162-for-544 (29.8 percent) before shooting 231-for-676 (34.2 percent) the following season. In 2017-18, the Gauchos knocked down 242 triples on 35.2 percent from range. That percentage is good for seventh all-time in program history.

Non-Conference Preview
In all, the Gauchos will play 30 games this season, beginning with Monday's season-opening home exhibition against Cal State San Bernardino. The following week, UCSB will hit the road for its Tuesday regular season opener at Utah Valley (Nov. 6). That will be the first of three games this fall to be played outside of California, with the other two coming during Thanksgiving weekend at the UNLV Tournament (Nov. 24-25). The Gauchos' home season opener will pit them against CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 9 at 7:00 p.m. Other non-conference home contests will see them take on LMU (Nov. 19), St. Mary's (Nov. 29), Grand Canyon (Dec. 2), Cal Baptist (Dec. 19) and New Mexico State (Dec. 30). UCSB's non-conference road slate includes a pair of marquee matchups against Pac-12 schools USC (Nov. 15) and Cal (Dec. 16). The month of December will also feature road matchups with Pacific (Dec. 8) and San Diego State (Dec. 21).

Addition to the Staff
Henrickson's coaching staff remains mostly intact from last season, along with the addition of new assistant coach Nneka Enemkpali. The former Texas Longhorn was drafted in the third round (26th overall) of the 2015 WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm, and later signed a seven-day contract with the Minnesota Lynx. She most recently served two years on the staff at Gonzaga, where she was the video coordinator for a Bulldogs team that had two NCAA Tournament appearances, two West Coast Conference (WCC) championships, and a 53-13 record.