Gauchos Battle Throughout in 74-68 Loss at UC Irvine

Bri Anugwom (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Bri Anugwom (Photo by Tony Mastres)

IRVINE, Calif. – Despite outshooting and outrebounding their opponents, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team lost to UC Irvine 74-68 at the Bren Events Center on Thursday night.

The defeat is only UCSB's second in its previous eight meetings with the Anteaters.

"I thought we were tough. I thought we were good early. We'll build on and get some pieces from this, recognizing that there were some stretches where we did a lot of things well," said Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson after the game.

To kickstart what turned out to be a high-scoring affair, both teams came out scoring from the onset, delivering a combined 40-point first quarter.

The Gauchos (4-15, 1-5 Big West) held the lead over the first six minutes of play, highlighted by a three-pointer by redshirt junior guard Coco Miller that bounced high into the air off the back end of the rim before falling through the net.

A layup by Anteater guard Brooke Bayman tied the game at 12 apiece with 3:58 left in the first quarter, with both teams trading baskets for the rest of the period and UC Irvine (14-4, 4-2 Big West) holding a narrow 21-19 advantage entering the second quarter.

UCSB continued to keep pace with the Anteaters, retaking the lead twice before ultimately heading into the locker room down 39-36 at the halftime break.

More importantly for UCSB, they held Anteater forward Jordan Sanders to just two points in the second quarter after she scored 11 in the first.

Sanders wasn't the only one stymied by the Gauchos' defensive setup as guard Andee Ritter, fresh off a UC Irvine record-setting performance in which she scored eight three-pointers at Cal Poly, scored her first points of the game with just 29 seconds left until the break.

Irvine's offense picked up early in the third quarter, as a 7-0 run extended the Anteaters' lead to 46-36, their largest of the game.

UCSB clawed their way back to a one-point deficit by the end of the third quarter, with junior guard Tal Sahar's buzzer-beating layup through traffic bringing the Gaucho bench onto their feet as her shot capped off a 16-7 run to make the score 53-52 to UC Irvine.

Despite another Coco Miller triple that tied the game at 55-all within the first minute of the final frame, the Gauchos weren't able to capitalize on forced errors and earn back the lead.

The closest the Gauchos would come to the Anteaters' lead again was with 6:28 left in regulation when sophomore point guard Danae Miller hit a three-pointer of her own to close the gap to a 61-58 scoreline, but Irvine closed the game out with solid free throw shooting as they earned their fourteenth win of the season.

Coco Miller led a trio of Gauchos in double digits with 19 points, adding four offensive boards and a steal.

Danae Miller had 16 points on 3-of-6 three-point shooting, while sophomore guard Bri Anugwom's seven rebounds led the team as she added 12 points.

"I thought Bri had four great plays. Early on, she was very deliberate about pace and played in rhythm and on balance. I thought she did a really good job."

Junior center Natalia Bruening earned two blocks, and Sahar matched that tally in her return from injury while tacking on eight points on 4-of-10 shooting.

"Where we are right now, we have to recognize that if we play like that, we will find success, and would have found success prior to today. For us now, it's about coming back tomorrow and making sure that we have good preparation and execute."

Next up for the Gauchos is an away match at UC Riverside on Saturday afternoon, with tipoff scheduled for 2:00 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN3.