Gauchos Look to Build Momentum at Home vs. Fullerton, Hawaii

Paris Jones (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
Paris Jones (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
The Schedule
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (4-12, 1-2) vs. Cal State Fullerton (10-6, 2-1)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Titans: 57-24
Last Meeting: W, 78-59 @ UCSB (2/15/18)
Live Stats 
| Video
Saturday, Jan. 26, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (4-12, 1-2) vs. Hawaii (5-11, 1-2)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Rainbow Wahine: 16-27
Last Meeting: L, 73-64 @ UH (3/1/18)
Live Stats 
Defeating The Beach
Thanks to a 45-28 rebounding advantage, UC Santa Barbara knocked off the last remaining undefeated Big West team of 2019, handing Long Beach State its first conference loss, 60-54. A trio of Gauchos put up 15 points for the first time this year, led by Natalia Bruening's 16 on 7-for-8 shooting. Guards Danae and Coco Miller also put up 15 apiece. UCSB enjoyed its most lopsided rebounding margin of the year thanks in large part to the energy and effort of first-year Gauchos Bri Anugwom and Lauren Lee, who pulled down career-highs of 14 and eight boards, respectively. The Gauchos pulled off the win despite making just 6.7% of their threes, hitting a season-low 1-out-of-15 to LBSU's 10-for-27 (.370).
Big West Picture
After claiming their first Big West win of the season, the Gauchos (4-12, 1-2) head into the final two games of their home stand tied with Hawaii (5-11, 1-2) – who they play this Saturday – for the sixth-best record in the conference.
Dome Sweet Dome
UCSB – currently in the midst of its only three-game home stand of the year – started the season by dropping its first three home games. Since then, the Gauchos have gone 2-2 at the Thunderdome, with wins over Grand Canyon, 66-55, and Long Beach, 60-54. Santa Barbara has had a winning home record every year that head coach Bonnie Henrickson's has been with the team, going a combined 23-16 through her first three seasons.
Scouting The Competition
It's been a year to remember for Cal State Fullerton, which at 10-6 overall and 2-1 in conference is on pace to finish at .500 or above for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The Titans rank third in points per game (67.2), led by guard Raina Perez (13.9) and center Daeja Smith (13.5), and are in a virtual tie with first place UC Davis for the highest team field goal percentage (.437) in the Big West. They are arguably the hottest Big West team right now, having gone 8-2 over their last 10 with the only losses coming against Pacific and at Davis. The Gauchos have never lost to Fullerton with Henrickson at the helm though, having won seven straight over the Titans since 2015.
Hawaii (5-11, 1-2) meanwhile heads to the west coast for games against Cal Poly and UCSB coming off one of the program's worst offensive showings in recent memory, scoring a season-low 29 points in a 20-point home loss to CSUN last Thursday. For the season, the Rainbow Wahine lead the conference in three-point (.342) and free throw percentage (.745), but they have dropped to last in scoring offense (54.0 ppg) since the start of Big West play.
Coco Going Loco
Redshirt junior guard Coco Miller has taken her game to new heights this season, culminating in her career-high 33-point outburst against Cal Poly two weekends ago which stands as the highest Big West scoring total during league play. She is averaging career-highs this year in practically every category: points (14.6), assists (2.6), steals (1.8), minutes (34.1) and field goal (.376) and three-point percentage (.336). Over her last six outings though, the San Clemente, Calif. native is averaging 21 points and 2.8 steals per game. Her 2.3 three-pointers per game rank first in the conference, a mark which she has upped to 2.7 per game in 2019.
Miller Making Things Happen
Coco hasn't been the only Gaucho guard named Miller doing work. After seven straight single-digit scoring performances to start her sophomore season, Danae Miller knew she had to be more aggressive, and it has shown in her recent play. The second year point guard has scored 15 or more points in four of her last five, the only exception being a 12-point, 7-rebound, 4-assist and 2-steal effort at Cal Poly. She has attempted at least 10 field goals and made at least one three in all five, while still managing to keep her current nine-game run of 4+ assists alive. During conference play, Danae ranks sixth in points (14.3), fourth in triples (2.3), and fifth in assists per game (4.3).
Paint Producer
When Natalia Bruening is active and effective, the Gauchos are a better team. In all but one of UCSB's wins this year, the former Corona del Mar standout has had at least 13 points on 62.5 percent or better from the field. The junior center is coming off one of her most efficient offensive performances yet, connecting on 7-of-8 shots and 2-of-2 at the line for 16 points, five boards and a career-high two steals. When she gets the ball in the post and is able to turn and shoot on balance, there is simply no stopping her, as evidenced by her exceptional conference-leading 69.6 percent shooting clip in the month of January.
Anugwom Making An Impact
In her first season as a Gaucho, sophomore guard Bri Anugwom is the team's third-leading scorer (9.2 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (4.6 rpg). The former West Los Angeles CC standout has shown that she can both drive it to the basket and hit from the outside, but she has been especially reliable from the free throw line, where she leads the Big West at 87.0 percent (40-46 FT).
A Tale of Two Halves
On paper, the Gauchos have been much better over the final 20 minutes of games this season than in the opening 20 minutes. UCSB has only been outscored over the final 20 minutes just once since Dec. 16, when Cal Poly put up one more point in a 42-41 second half two weeks ago in San Luis Obispo. The win over the 49ers saw the Gauchos outscore their opponent in both halves for the first time this season. Overall, they are being outscored by an average of 2.9 points in the second half, compared to 7.2 in the first half.
One Month At A Time
Santa Barbara's offense has continued to improve with each month. After averaging 52.3 points in seven games in November, the Gauchos put up 60.7 points in six December games, and are now at 64.0 points in January. They are also currently averaging monthly season-highs in field goal percentage (39.8%), rebounds (35.7 rpg), assists (13.7 apg), steals (7.0 spg) and blocks (2.7 bpg).
Get On The Glass!
In the five games which the Gauchos have outrebounded their opponents, UCSB boasts a 4-1 record, with the only loss coming to CBU. They are averaging a +14.8 rebounding margin in their four wins this year, but are being outrebounded by an average of 9.7 boards per game in losses.