UCSB Returns Home to Play St. Mary’s Thursday, GCU Sunday

Photo by Jeilo Gauna
Photo by Jeilo Gauna
 
The Schedule
Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at 12:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (1-5) vs. St. Mary's (3-2)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Gaels: 7-6
Last Meeting: L, 89-59 @ SMU (Nov. 24, 2017)
Live Stats 
Video
 
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (1-5) vs. Grand Canyon (2-3)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Lopes: 0-0
Last Meeting: N/A
Live Stats 
Video
 
Lady Rebel Round-Up Recap
UC Santa Barbara earned its first win of the year in the UNLV Lady Rebel Round-Up Consolation Game, defeating Dartmouth 62-56 behind 22 points (7-13 FG) from Coco Miller and 18 (6-6 FG) from Natalia Bruening. The Gauchos jumped out to 43-22 third quarter lead, thanks in large part to Miller hitting 5-of-6 first half three-pointers. She also pulled down 10 rebounds for her second career double-double. Santa Barbara fell to UNLV 69-51 in its first game of the weekend, despite outshooting the host Rebels from the field (38.6% to 38.2%) and from three (38.9% to 30.8%).
 
Home Stand Preview
Fresh off their first win of the year, the Gauchos (1-5) return home this week for games against St. Mary's (3-2) and Grand Canyon (2-3). This will be the first of four home stands for UCSB this year, which enters the weekend with an 0-2 mark at The Thunderdome. The Gauchos have had a winning home record every year that head coach Bonnie Henrickson has been with the team, going 23-16 since the start of the 2015-16 season. The last time UCSB faced St. Mary's was last November, a game which the Gaels won 89-59. The Gauchos own a 7-6 advantage in the all-time series with St. Mary's, but has never faced GCU before.
 
Coco Is Back
After missing all of last season due to injury, redshirt junior guard Coco Miller has found her rhythm. After entering the year with four career 20-point games, she had two in the last week alone, going for 20 against LMU and a season-high 22 versus Dartmouth. Miller has shot at least 50% from the field in three straight games and is one of just two players in the Big West who has hit a three in every game thus far. She hit all five of her triples against Dartmouth prior to halftime – the second time she's made that many in a single half – increasing her career total to 122 threes, good for No. 7 in program history. She is currently averaging career-highs in points (13.0), field goal (40.9%) and three-point percentage (32.4%), rebounds (4.2), assists (2.7), steals (1.7) and minutes (34.2).
 
Nat In The Middle
Serving as the new focal point of the Gauchos' halfcourt offense, Natalia Bruening got out to a fantastic start to her junior season, averaging 15.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and a 57.1 FG% through the first two games. In her third and fourth career starts, Bruening notched her first two career double-doubles, while setting career-highs with 20 points against Utah Valley and 16 rebounds versus Bakersfield. While she hasn't maintained that level of production, she broke out of a three-game slump with 18 points and seven rebounds in the win over Dartmouth. She went 6-for-6 from the field, setting new personal-bests for most made baskets in a game and most consecutive shots made. Bruening currently sits fifth in the conference in field goal percentage (56.1%) and fourth in rebounds (7.5).
 
A Tale of Two Halves
Slow starts plagued the Gauchos through their first five games, as they scored in single digits in four first quarters. However, that trend would come to a halt against Dartmouth, as UCSB got hot early on, shooting 75 percent (9-12 FG) as a team in the first quarter and taking a 20-10 lead into the second. In home games, the Gauchos have been at their best facing large second-half deficits. Through its first two Thunderdome outings, UCSB is averaging 33.5 points in the second half compared to just 19 in the first half.
 
Battle for the Boards
Although the sample size is still extremely small, the Gauchos can look at their rebounding numbers as a measure of their success. Every time they have been outrebounded by 13 or more, they have lost in double-digits. In games where they were outrebounded by 12 or fewer, they have lost in single-digits. They have outrebounded an opponent just once, 39-24 against Dartmouth, resulting in their lone win this year, 62-56.
 
Sparks Off the Bench
After a disappointing first game of the year in which it was held scoreless, UCSB's bench has continued to improve. It increased its scoring output in three straight games, seeing a season-high of 30 points against LMU on Nov. 19, led by guard Tal Sahar's 15 points (4-7 3FG). Sahar is the team's leading scorer off the bench, averaging 6.0 ppg. Behind her is freshman Kiana Vierra, who has shown signs of being another long-range scoring threat after a four-game stretch over the last two weeks in which she hit 7-of-17 (41.2%) from distance.
 
Starting Lineup Shuffle
Bruening is the only current starter to have started a game for the Gauchos last season, when she filled in for an injured Drew Edelman in a game against Fresno State. She has been joined in the frontcourt by forward Celeste Salazar in recent games, while Coco Miller and Bri Anugwom have garnered the most backcourt starts. Anugwom had the best start to the year of any Gaucho aside from Bruening, able to penetrate through the lane with force and finish at the rim. In her first career game at the D-I level, the former West Los Angeles CC guard poured in 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting at UVU. She currently ranks third on the team with 8.5 ppg.
 
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 will get 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.
 
Addition to the Staff
Henrickson's coaching staff remains mostly intact from last season, along with the addition of new assistant coach Nneka Enemkpali. The former Texas Longhorn was drafted in the third round (26th overall) of the 2015 WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm, and later signed a seven-day contract with the Minnesota Lynx. She most recently served two years on the staff at Gonzaga, where she was the video coordinator for a Bulldogs team that had two NCAA Tournament appearances, two West Coast Conference (WCC) championships, and a 53-13 record.