Posted: Nov 14, 2018
Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (0-2) at USC 2-0
Galen Center – Los Angeles, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Trojans: 11-16
Monday, Nov. 19 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (0-2) vs. Loyola Marymount (2-0)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Lions: 12-7
Opening Week Recap
UC Santa Barbara took a pair of single-digit losses in the opening week of play, falling 63-54 at Utah Valley and 56-48 versus Cal State Bakersfield in the Gauchos' home season-opener. For the second straight year, UCSB had two 20-point scorers in its first game, as Natalia Bruening recorded her first career 20-point outing (9-14 FG) and Bri Anugwom put up 21 (8-12 FG) in her NCAA D-I debut against the Wolverines, but it wasn't enough to overcome a 17-4 third quarter run by UVU. Three days later, the Gauchos would nearly pull off a remarkable comeback, cutting 19 points off of a 21-point deficit, before the Roadrunners closed things out on a 6-0 run. Bruening enjoyed a second consecutive double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down a personal-best 16 rebounds.
Santa Barbara vs. Los Angeles
The Gauchos (0-2) will look to pick up their first win of 2018-19 with upcoming games against USC (2-0) and Loyola Marymount (2-0). Both of the Trojans' wins this season have come against Big West teams, downing UC Riverside 73-55 and Long Beach State 86-50. The Lions meanwhile have enjoyed a pair of impressive wins over Pac-12 teams, defeating UCLA 69-63 in their season-opener and Arizona 66-64 on the road. UCSB leads LMU in the all-time series record 12-7, but trails USC 11 wins to 16.
Bruening Filling Big Shoes
For those wondering how UCSB would fill the void left by All-Big West First Team selection Drew Edelman, who served as the offense's focal point the past two seasons, Natalia Bruening has done little other than to silence potential early-season concerns. Now the team's leading paint presence, the center has gotten out to an outstanding start to her junior year, ranking in the conference's top-10 with averages of 15.5 points (8th), 13.5 rebounds (3rd) and one block (5th) per game on a 57.1 shooting percentage (5th). In her third and fourth career starts, Bruening notched her first two career double-doubles, while setting career-highs with 20 points against Utah Valley and 16 rebounds versus Bakersfield.
Bruening is the only current starter to have started a game for the Gauchos last season, when she filled in for an injured Drew Edelman in a game against Fresno State. She is also the only non-guard, as Bri Anugwom, Paris Jones, Coco Miller and Tal Sahar round out the current starting lineup. Anugwom has had the best start of any Gaucho aside from Bruening, able to penetrate through the lane with force and finish at the rim. In her first career game at the Div. I level, the former West LA CC guard poured in 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting at UVU. She currently ranks second on the team and 10th in the Big West at 15.0 ppg, and leads the Gauchos with 2.0 steals per game. Jones, another recent Gaucho debutant, has made an impact as well, tying with Miller and Anugwom for the team-lead at 2.5 assists per game.
After missing all of last season due to injury, redshirt junior Coco Miller has made her return to the starting lineup. While her shot hasn't yet hit its stride, her all-around game and sharp decision-making has seen her take the floor for a team-high 39.5 minutes a night. Her 10 ppg are third on the team, while her 2.5 assists are tied for first. One of the team's top sharpshooters since her freshman year, Miller's 113 career three-pointers are good for 7th-most in program history.
Head coach Bonnie Henrickson's bench got out to a slow start, going scoreless in the Gauchos' season-opener for the first time since she took over the team in 2015-16. However, the bench was much more effective against Bakersfield, going a combined 3-of-6 from the field for 11 points. Guard Lauren Lee led the bench mob with six points, hitting 4-of-5 free throws.
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.
While UCSB has struggled with its shot through two games (32.4%), the Gauchos have helped themselves by getting to the free throw line often. Against the Roadrunners, they knocked down 23-of-31 (74.2%) from the stripe, tying for the most made free throws during the Henrickson era. They went 14-for-16 in the second half, helping cut a 21-point deficit to just two points in the final minutes. UCSB currently sits atop the Big West in free throw makes (14.5) and attempts (20.5) per game.
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.