On a night where the Gauchos shot just 31.8 percent as a team, UCSB (1-1) was able to earn its first win of the young season, defeating Pepperdine (0-2) 66-57 at home behind the hot shooting of Coco Miller and Drew Edelman. Miller, who went 5-11 from three-point range through three quarters, tied a career-high with 24 points to lead all scorers.
"The defense can't take away everything, so if they take away our bigs, my shot's open," Miller said. "When my shot's not open, I can pass it to the big. They really pressured us on the inside, so I had a lot of open shots. That's why on my job description it says, 'Knock down open shots.'"
Prior to UCSB's season-opener against Iowa State four days ago in which she went 0-2 from the field for just three points, Miller had just two career games where she was held without a field goal. She bounced back in a big way from the third-lowest scoring outing of her career, finishing the night 6-15 from the field and hitting 7-10 free throws, most of which came late in the fourth quarter. She also tied a career-high with seven rebounds.
"It's not about the great plays you make, it's about the bad plays you don't make. Coco doesn't make bad plays, she's steady and consistent," Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "She has a really high basketball IQ, she's really mature and guards a lot of positions well, and that's valuable to us."
UCSB had lived and died by the three up until midway through the third quarter, when a 20-4 run gave the Waves a 33-31 advantage, their first lead since the 4:42 mark of the opening period. Playing in her first career game at the Thunderdome, redshirt junior Drew Edelman would take over from there. Consistently setting herself up with great position deep in the paint, Edelman went on to score all 16 of her points in the second half, finishing 8-12 from the field. She was the game's second-leading scorer.
"It was great to not be in foul trouble anymore, and my teammates are great about throwing me the ball," Edelman said. "When they kick it in and I get doubled, I can kick it out and I know Coco will knock down an open shot. It's definitely a good thing we have going."
Point guard Onome Jemerigbe had an off-shooting night, going 0-5 from the field, but as she has proven in the past, she didn't need to score to make an impact. The Stockton, California native did go an efficient 6-8 from the free-throw line, but she was most impactful distributing the ball and applying high-pressure defense all night, finishing with game-highs of seven assists and four steals.
As a team, UCSB had 14 turnovers, compared to 22 for Pepperdine, and enjoyed a 13-7 advantage in steals.
After taking a 5-0 lead less than a minute into the game, the Gauchos' hot start quickly turned sloppy, and by the 5:33 mark, they had four turnovers compared to just three shot attempts. However, the backcourt combination of Jemerigbe and Drea Toler would quickly get things under control, as their pressure on the Waves' ball-handlers led to UCSB having a +10 turnover margin for the rest of the half.
Santa Barbara shot an abysmal 3-18 in the paint in the first half, but their poor inside scoring was balanced out by the hot outside shooting of Miller and Sarah Porter, who were a combined 6-12 on threes in the first half. That shooting sent the Gauchos on a 16-2 run midway through the second, giving them a 27-13 lead despite Pepperdine having the higher field-goal percentage.
"When we went on a run in the first half, we penetrated, kicked, drove it back, and at that point the defense has to decide to play it wide or collapse on the penetration," Henrickson said. "We really just talked about trying to reverse the ball. If our bigs are working, they're going to attract a lot of attention. If they're not, we're going to throw it to them."
Miller was the only player to score in double-digits in the first half, heading into the break with 14 points on 4-9 shooting from deep. The rest of the team went just 4-27 in the first half, and Pepperdine went on a run to cut the lead to just 27-22 at the half.
The Waves' momentum crept into the third, where they eventually capped their 20-4 run to take a 33-31 lead at the 4:26 mark.
Needing a spark on the offensive end, the Gauchos turned to Edelman. After a scoreless first half, Edelman scored 10 in the third quarter alone, helping to keep Pepperdine at bay as the home side head into the fourth leading 45-36.
Pepperdine would continue to hang around in the fourth, not allowing UCSB to extend past an 11-point lead the rest of the game, but it was not enough to keep the Gauchos from earning their first victory of the season, 66-57.
Forward Chaya Durr led all players with 11 rebounds, tying a career-high, to go along with a team-leading three blocks. Taylor Farris meanwhile chipped in with three steals to go along with six rebounds, while Porter went 3-6 from three-point range to finish with 11 points and four assists in her home debut.
Pepperdine outshot UCSB 38.3-31.8 percent from the field, but made five less three-pointers and had 14 less free throw attempts than the host team. The Waves were led by Sydney Bordonaro and Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, who both went 6-12 from the field to put up team-leading marks of 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The Gauchos will look to win their second straight when they travel to face Seattle this Friday at 10 a.m.