Posted: Dec 15, 2018
Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (2-7) at Cal (8-0)
Haas Pavilion – Berkeley, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Golden Bears: 1-1
Last Meeting: L, 78-63 @ Cal (12/5/92)
Facing Pacific last Saturday in the first of three December road games, UC Santa Barbara fell to the Tigers 69-56. Junior center Natalia Bruening and sophomore guard Bri Anugwom paced UCSB (2-7) with 13 and 12 points, respectively, doing most of their damage in the second half. The two were once again solid from the free throw line, knocking down a combined 10-of-11 from the charity stripe. Junior guard Tal Sahar added eight points off the bench, making 2-of-7 from three-point range.
UCSB (2-7) concludes a two-game road stand at undefeated Cal (8-0) this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. The two teams have not met since December of 1992, a game which saw the Golden Bears defeat the Gauchos 78-63 in Berkeley. The Gauchos won the only previous meeting, 30-29, on Jan. 19, 1973.
After missing all of last season due to injury, redshirt junior guard Coco Miller has found her rhythm in recent weeks. Over her last six games, she has shot at least 50 percent four times and has scored at least 17 points on three occasions. To put that in perspective, that's already one more 17-point outing than she had in her entire sophomore season in 2016-17, the last time she was fully healthy. Miller has been effective both from the inside (45.7% 2FG) and from range, where she ranks fifth in the Big West in three-pointers per game (1.8) on a career-best 34 percent. Miller hit a season-high five triples in the win over Dartmouth – all before halftime. It was the second time in her career that she's made five treys in a half, and the fifth time she's made five in a game. The San Clemente, Calif. native has made 127 threes in her career, good for No. 7 in program history. She is currently averaging career-highs in scoring (11.6 ppg), field goal percentage (39.8%), rebounds (3.4), and assists (2.8).
Anugwom Making An Impact
First-year Gaucho Bri Anugwom has been a key contributor for UCSB in her first nine games at the D-I level, coming in third on the team in points (10.8), field goal percentage (45.3%) and minutes (25.3). The former West Los Angeles CC standout has been one of the more reliable shooters on the team as well, currently sitting fourth in the conference in three-point percentage (45.0%) and second in free throw percentage (87.0%). Over her last three outings, Anugwom is averaging 15.3 ppg on 57.1 percent shooting.
Nat In The Middle
Since the win over Dartmouth, Natalia Bruening has enjoyed the most effective and efficient four-game stretch offensively of her career. The junior center out of Newport Beach, Calif. has made it look easy inside the paint, most often when she is able to catch, turn and shoot without putting the ball on the floor. Standing a tall 6-foot-4, Bruening is averaging 13.75 ppg over her last four on 59.4 percent (19-32 FG) from the field. She notched her third double-double of the season in the win over GCU with 13 points and 10 boards, and currently ranks fourth in the Big West in field goal percentage (53.7%), fifth in rebounding (7.3) and eighth in blocks (0.9).
While UCSB's offense hasn't gotten out to a highly efficient start to the year overall, shooting 36.1 percent as a team through eight games, the Gauchos have helped themselves by getting to the free throw line with regularity. Santa Barbara is fourth in the conference with 11.6 free throw makes per game, led by Bruening, who ranks fifth individually with a 28-of-42 (66.7%) mark at the line. The Gauchos have made at least 10 free throws in five straight games. They set a season-high by going 23-for-31 (74.2%) against CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 9, tied for the most free throws made in a game during the Bonne Henrickson era.
Predictors of Success
Although the sample size is still small, the Gauchos can look at their rebounding numbers as a measure of their success. Every time they have been outrebounded by 13 or more, they have lost in double-digits. In games where they were outrebounded by 12 or fewer, they have lost in single-digits, with just one exception. In the two games they outrebounded their opponents, both times 39 to 24, they picked up their only two wins thus far, 62-56 over Dartmouth and 66-55 over Grand Canyon. Those wins also yielded the Gauchos' two highest shooting percentages of 47.8% versus the Big Green and 44.2% against the Lopes.
Sparks Off the Bench
After a disappointing first game of the year in which it was held scoreless, UCSB's bench has continued to show signs of improvement. It increased its scoring output in three straight games, seeing a season-high of 30 points against LMU on Nov. 19, led by guard Tal Sahar's 15 points (4-7 3FG). Sahar is the team's leading scorer off the bench, averaging 5.9 ppg. Behind her is freshman Kiana Vierra (3.4 ppg), who has shown signs of being another long-range scoring threat after a four-game stretch in November where she hit 7-of-17 (41.2%) from distance.
Starting Lineup Shuffle
UCSB has used six different starting lineups through nine games. This could stabilize with the return of Danae Miller, who was re-inserted to the starting lineup in the last three after being injured to start the season. Coco Miller and Natalia Bruening are the only Gauchos who have started every game thus far.
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.