Dominant First Half Vaults Gauchos to First Home Win Over GCU 66-55

Bri Anugwom (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
Bri Anugwom (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team put together one of its most impressive showings of the season on Sunday afternoon, with a dominant first half resulting in a 66-55 win over Grand Canyon.

The Gauchos (2-6) scored a season-high in their first home win of the year, putting up 47 of their 66 points in the first half alone. UCSB shot 50 percent as a team in the opening half, also knocking down 7-of-15 (46.7%) from three-point range and 10-of-14 (71.4%) at the free throw line. Despite their aggression on the offensive end, the Gauchos had just two first half turnovers compared to eight for the Lopes (2-4).

"All-around there were some good, positive things we were able to do today," said head coach Bonnie Henrickson. "Good rhythm in that first half, we manufactured offense a lot of different ways. Excited how we got our lead, but we've got to figure out how to maintain it."

Guards Coco Miller and Bri Anugwom were UCSB's catalysts early on, combining for 27 points over the opening 20 minutes. That was just one point fewer than the entire Grand Canyon team, which had 28 heading into the break. The duo led the way in a second quarter which saw the Gauchos score 28 points on 56.3% from the field, easily their best quarter of the season.

Anugwom finished with six rebounds and 19 points (2-3 3FG) to lead all scorers. Miller was the game's second-leading scorer with 17 points (4-5 3FG) to go along with five boards and five assists. Both players were an efficient 6-of-10 from the field.

After taking a 19-13 lead through one period, the Gauchos came out on a 12-3 run to open the second. Junior center Natalia Bruening tallied the first six points of the quarter for UCSB, scoring easily when she was able to get the ball in deep. The Gauchos went on to take a 47-28 lead into the half.

Santa Barbara still looked sharp coming out of halftime, extending its lead to as many as 26 points. A tough Tal Sahar jumpshot off the window capped a 13-3 Gaucho run to give the home side its largest lead of the day, 57-31, midway through the third.

UCSB would score just nine points the rest of the way, as Grand Canyon cut the lead to as little as eight points in the final minutes. A Bri Anugwom triple with a little over a minute remaining pushed the Gaucho advantage back up to 11 at 64-53, sealing the UCSB win.

Bruening was solid on both ends, hitting double-digits in the scoring department for the third straight game with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. She also notched her third double-double of the year, pulling down her 10th and final rebound late in the fourth quarter.

While she didn't make a field goal, guard Danae Miller's impact was felt once again in her second game back in the starting lineup. The sophomore led the way with a game-high nine assists, three more than her previous career-best.

The Gauchos also reached team season-highs in rebounds (39), assists (19) and three-pointers (8). They will head on the road for the next two weekends for games at Pacific (Dec. 8) and Cal (Dec. 16) before their next home game against Cal Baptist on Dec. 19.