UCSB Hits Free Throws, But Can't Stop Lancers Shooting in 76-64 Defeat

Natalia Bruening (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
Natalia Bruening (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A late surge by the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team wasn't enough to overcome a 20-point deficit, as the Gauchos fell to California Baptist 76-64 Wednesday night at the Thunderdome.

Junior guard Coco Miller was a bright spot throughout, nearly matching her season-high with 20 points on 4-of-12 from the field and hitting a career-high 10-of-11 free throws. It was her third 20-point performance of the season, giving her seven for her career. She also hit 2-of-6 from three-point range.

"We didn't have energy or any pop," said head coach Bonnie Henrickson. "We've got to be more aggressive, be able to drive downhill, get to the rim and finish or get fouled like Coco does."

The Gauchos (2-9) reeled off nine unanswered late in the fourth, with juniors Tal Sahar and Celeste Salazar scoring four each. That brought them within 11 points at 73-62, the closest they had been since the final minute of the opening period. The Lancers' (6-6) lead had grown to as high as 20 points several times in the second half.

Junior center Natalia Bruening got out to a hot start, putting together the highest-scoring quarter of her career with 10 points (5-6 FG) in the first. As a team, the Lancers came out much hotter though, taking leads of 27-15 into the second and 41-27 into halftime.

Bruening was shutout the rest of the way in the scoring department, but finished with eight rebounds and a pair of blocks. She spent a good amount of her time battling CBU's Britney Thomas in the paint. The Lancer forward notched game-highs of 12 rebounds and five blocks to go along with 11 points.

UCSB entered the night as one of the top three-point defenses in the Big West, but it couldn't find a way to slow the Lancers down from outside. CBU outshot the home side 44.8 to 18.8 percent from range, hitting a higher percentage from beyond-the-arc than from inside it.

The Gauchos were at their best from the free throw line, hitting a season-best 88.5 percent and making 23-for-26 from the stripe, tied for the most the team has made in a game since 2015.

Sophomore point guard Danae Miller was just 1-of-6 from the field, but had another solid all-around effort with seven points, eight rebounds and five assists.

"I just want to get us as many possessions as we can, I'm trying to get on the boards," Miller said. "I'm trying to be a threat everywhere, but I need to be able to take more of a leading spot as far as trying to create on offense."

After a slow start, Tal Sahar got into a rhythm late in the second half. She scored 10 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter alone, making 4-of-6 shots and tallying two boards and two blocks in the final period. It was the first time she's reached double-figures in back-to-back games in a Gaucho jersey.

The loss marks the first of the season in which UCSB has outrebounded its opponent and lost, finishing with a 41-35 edge on the glass.

UCSB will return to the road later this week for a Friday afternoon matchup at San Diego State at 1:00 p.m.