Posted: Mar 08, 2019
Saturday, Mar. 9, 2019 at 2:30 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (8-20, 3-10) vs. UC Davis (22-6, 14-1)
The Pavilion – Davis, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Aggies: 17-20
Gauchos Clinch Postseason Berth With Pair of Home Wins
UC Santa Barbara entered its most important week of the season last week needing at least one win to stay in Big West Tournament contention. The Gauchos instead chose to go undefeated in the clutch, defeating Cal Poly in a 44-42 Thursday night thriller before dominating UC Riverside down the stretch in a 61-44 Saturday afternoon win. UCSB gutted it out in the must-win meeting with the Mustangs despite shooting just 24 percent as a team, the lowest shooting percentage in a win in program history. Coco and Danae Miller led the way in the victory over the Highlanders two nights later, combining for 25 of the Gauchos' 33 second half points as UCSB clinched its fourth straight postseason berth.
Big West Picture
With just one game remaining ahead of tournament play, the Gauchos (8-20, 3-10) currently reside in the No. 7 spot. If UCSB loses at UC Davis on Saturday, it could still end up with the No. 8 seed, given that either Hawaii wins at CSUN on the final day of the regular season, or that Long Beach State wins at UC Irvine. If the Gauchos hold on to the No. 7 seed, they would play No. 6 seed Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Tournament First Round next Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. in Irvine. However, if the Gauchos drop to No. 8, they will face the No. 5 seed Anteaters on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.
Regular Season Finale at Davis
First place UC Davis (22-6, 14-1) has already clinched a third straight Big West regular season title, meaning Saturday's date with the Gauchos is essentially a non-bearing game for the Aggies. However, considering that this is a team that has gone a remarkable 42-5 against Big West foes over the past three seasons, odds are they won't be taking their foot off the gas pedal now. UCSB was trounced in a 70-44 defeat by UCD in early February, the last time the Gauchos lost a game at home. Since that loss however, UCSB has responded with its best stretch of basketball all year, posting a 4-3 record in the seven games to follow. The Gauchos have still yet to win a conference game on the road though, while the Aggies have won 21 straight Big West home games.
UCSB heads into Saturday's game riding a couple of timely streaks. Last week, the Gauchos came away winners in consecutive games for the first time this season, meaning their lone winning streak of 2018-19 will be on the line in Davis. Another streak which will have to wait until next season to be back on the table is UCSB's current run of four straight home wins. This also marks the third straight year that the Gauchos have won four consecutive home games.
Until Next Year, Sweet Dome
The months of February and March have been good to the Gauchos within the confines of the Thunderdome of late, as they boast a near-perfect 8-1 mark at home over the last two seasons. Unfortunately, they have mirrored those results away from home, going 1-8 away from the Dome over that same span.
It's Miller Time
Over her last 11 games, Coco Miller has scored 15 or more points five times, but has been held to five points or fewer on five occasions as well. The San Clemente, Calif. native remains one of the conference's leading scorers, coming in eighth at 12.7 points per game, and she has made the second-most three-pointers (55) in the Big West. After an 0-for-5 three-point outing against Cal Poly, a team she has traditionally punished from the outside, she made 5-of-10 in the win over UCR, including four in the second half. It was the fourth time this season that she's made five or more threes in a game, something no other Big West player has done. During conference play, she also ranks second in steals (2.1), third in minutes (36.3) and sixth in assist-turnover ratio (1.8). Miller's success has led to team success this year – she is averaging 18.5 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting in wins, compared to 10.4 points on 27.2 percent shooting in losses.
Entering the season, point guard Danae Miller might have been considered more of a facilitator than a scorer, but she has struck a fine balance between the two so far in 2019. The sophomore has been UCSB's leading playmaker (4.1 apg) and second-leading scorer (11.3 ppg) during conference play, being aggressive on her drives to the basket while still managing to set up her teammates as the team's primary ball handler. Her 4.1 assists are tied for fourth in the Big West, while her 1.7 steals per game are tied for eighth. She has rarely come off the floor in 2019, averaging a whopping 38.0 minutes per game, second-most in the conference. Her increased aggression in those minutes has been a welcome sight, too, as she is averaging just under four free throws per game while shooting 91.7 percent from the line over her last six outings.
Junior center Natalia Bruening has been a focal point for UCSB at times this year, with her size and ability to score efficiently inside being a key component of the Gaucho offense. The Newport Beach, Calif. native leads the team in rebounding (6.0 rpg) and is UCSB's second-leading scorer (9.9 ppg). Her 50.5 shooting percentage ranks third in the conference, while her four double-doubles are tied for fifth.
Freshman Megan Ormiston has done a commendable job backing up Bruening this season, providing solid production in limited minutes. Per 40 minutes however, the forward is averaging the eighth-most total rebounds (10.5) during conference play. She's doing even better on the offensive glass, ranking third with 4.9 boards per 40. Despite averaging just 14.7 minutes per contest, her 12 blocked shots this season are good for seventh in the Big West. If she had enough shot attempts to hit minimum requirements, her 53.4 shooting percentage would lead the conference.
Crashing The Glass
In her first year as a Gaucho, former West Los Angeles CC star Bri Anugwom has played a significant role, starting in 27 of 28 games. While her offensive production has been up-and-down – she's fourth on the team with 9.0 points per game – she seemingly has never lacked energy in other ways, especially on the glass. She leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per contest during conference, a mark which is good for second-most among Big West guards. She also continues to lead all Big West players in free throw percentage, converting at an extremely efficient 86.6 clip.