UCSB Seeks First Big West Win at Cal Poly Saturday

Danae Miller (Photo by Greg Kim)
Danae Miller (Photo by Greg Kim)

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The Schedule
Saturday, Jan. 12, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (3-11, 0-1) at Cal Poly (3-9, 0-1)
Mott Athletics Center – San Luis Obispo, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Mustangs: 54-28
Last Meeting: L, 73-72 @ CP (2/21/18)
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Big West Opener at CSUN
UC Santa Barbara never led in its Big West opener at CSUN, despite 19 points from Natalia Bruening and 16 from Danae Miller. Although the Matadors led by as many as 16 points before halftime, a trio of three-pointers by Coco and Danae Miller to start the second half would cut the deficit to single-digits. However, CSUN would control things the rest of the way, taking a +12 advantage on the glass and outscoring UCSB 23-11 in second chance points en route to a 73-65 win.

Blue-Green Rivalry Preview
Coming off back-to-back eight-point losses, the Gauchos (3-11, 0-1) travel to San Luis Obispo this Saturday to face a Mustang team that similarly begins this week with three wins on the season. Cal Poly (3-9, 0-1) fell to UC Irvine 75-59 in its conference opener last Saturday. Since losing last year's leading scorers Dynn and Lynn Leaupepe, who accounted for 47.1 percent of the team's total points in 2017-18, the Mustangs have turned to forwards Devin Stanback and Hana Vesela, who lead the team with averages of 13.6 and 10.7 points per game, respectively. One of Cal Poly's biggest weaknesses this year has been its inability to take care of the ball, as it ranks dead last in the Big West in turnover margin (-4.2). However, the Gauchos also rank last in steals per game (4.9). The two teams have split the last three season-series, with the home team winning each of the last six, but UCSB owns a commanding 54-28 all-time advantage.
Miller Time
Statistically speaking, UCSB's leading scorer Coco Miller had one of the roughest nights of her career in the loss to CSUN. The redshirt junior guard made just 2-of-17 shots, including 2-for-12 from three-point range, for seven points. She was still effective in other ways as she is wont to do, pulling down six rebounds to go along with a team-high four assists and one block. It ended a run of three straight 20-point games for Miller. She has five 20-point outings this season, already more than the four she registered in her freshman and sophomore seasons combined. She ranks second in the conference in triples per game (2.2) and 10th in three-point percentage (32.6%). A long-range threat for most of her career, Miller (142 3FG) is closing in on Makala Roper (152) for No. 6 in the UCSB record book.
Miller Time... Part II
Danae Miller has looked like a different player in recent weeks. After missing the first four games of the year with a toe injury, the point guard eased her way back into the starting lineup, scoring no more than seven points in each of the first seven games of her sophomore season. Over the last three however, she is averaging 18 points and 5.3 assists per contest on 54.5 percent shooting, attempting a career-high 11 shot attempts in all three games. Her increased level of aggressiveness has gotten her to the line with more regularity, but against CSUN, she hurt the Matadors from the outside, hitting a career-best 4-for-7 from beyond-the-arc. Miller has had at least four assists in seven straight games and has pulled down seven or more rebounds in three of her last four. If you take away her first two appearances this season – a pair of short-lived cameos off the bench – her 5.0 assists per game would rank top-five in the Big West.
Bruening Bounces Back
One game after her second scoreless outing of the season, junior center Natalia Bruening put up 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting against CSUN. It was her second-highest scoring output of the season, behind only her 20-point career-high in the season-opener at Utah Valley. It's been an up-and-down season for Bruening, but she is still one of just two Gauchos averaging double-figures (10.0 ppg) and she continues to lead the team in rebounds (6.6 rpg) and blocks (0.9 bpg). She is also shooting an even 50 percent on the year, good for fifth in the conference.
Streaky Shooter
The first half of the season hasn't been efficient for redshirt junior guard Tal Sahar from a shooting standpoint – of the 50 Big West players with at least 25 made field goals this season, Sahar (26.5 FG%) is the only one shooting under 30 percent overall. However, she has been able to make an impact with her three-point shooting of late. Over the last five games, she is knocking down nearly three triples per game (2.8) and connecting at a very respectable 35.9 percent. She has also scored in double-figures four times over the last five. Last year, she had just three double-digit performances, none of which were done in consecutive games. She ranks seventh in the Big West in three-pointers per game (1.7) and 20th in percentage (25.5%).
Anugwom Making An Impact
First-year Gaucho Bri Anugwom has been a key contributor for UCSB in her first 14 games at the D-I level, coming in third on the team in points (9.4) and minutes (26.8) and first in three-point percentage (35.5%). The former West Los Angeles CC standout has been extremely reliable from the free throw line as well, currently sitting second in the Big West at 87.2 percent (34-39 FT). She had her best stretch so far this season from Nov. 29-Dec. 8, when she averaged 15.3 points per game on 57.1 percent shooting. In the five games since then however, she is down to 6.8 points on 22 percent from the field.
A Tale of Two Halves
On paper, the Gauchos have been much better in the second half in a number of games this season. In fact, UCSB hasn't been outscored over the final 20 minutes of a game in the four games since its Dec. 16 trip to Cal. For the season, the Gauchos have either outscored or matched their opponent six times in the second half, while they have headed into halftime with a lead just three times. Overall, they are being outscored by an average of 3.6 points in the second half, compared to 7.9 in the first half.
Get On The Glass!
In the four games which the Gauchos have outrebounded their opponents this season, UCSB boasts a 3-1 record, with the only loss coming to CBU. They are averaging a +14 rebounding margin in their three wins this year, but are being outrebounded by an average of 10.3 boards per game 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.