Gauchos Head Back on the Road, Face Pacific on Saturday

Tal Sahar (Photo by Greg Kim)
Tal Sahar (Photo by Greg Kim)
 
The Schedule
Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (2-6) at Pacific (4-1)
Alex G. Spanos Center – Stockton, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Tigers: 51-18
Last Meeting: W, 52-47 @ UOP (Feb. 9, 2013)
Live Stats 
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Home Stand Recap
UC Santa Barbara picked up its first home win of the season this past Saturday, downing Grand Canyon 66-55 behind a 47-point first half and 28 in the second quarter alone. Guards Bri Anugwom (19 points) and Coco Miller (17) led all players in scoring, combining to shoot 6-of-8 (75%) from three-point range. Center Natalia Bruening also notched her third double-double of the season, going for 13 and 10 on 5-of-8 shooting. Three days later, the Gauchos also got out to a strong offensive start, scoring 19 in the first quarter, but went on to be defeated by Saint Mary's 80-55.
 
Pacific Preview
The Gauchos (2-6) return to the road for two games over the next two weekends, beginning with a 2:00 p.m. matchup at Pacific this Saturday, Dec. 8. After making it to the WCC Semifinals last year with a 15-17 overall, 7-11 conference record, the Tigers are out to a hot 4-1 start to this season. Pacific opened the year with an 83-80 win over two-time defending Big West regular season champion UC Davis, and has since only lost to No. 23 Cal, 81-69. The Tigers have three players averaging over 16 points per game, led by senior guard Ameela Li (18.4 ppg).
 
Miller Time
After missing all of last season due to injury, redshirt junior guard Coco Miller has found her rhythm in recent weeks. Over her last five games, she has shot at least 50 percent four times and has scored at least 17 points on three occasions. To put that in perspective, that's already one more 17-point outing than she had in her entire sophomore season in 2016-17, the last time she was fully healthy. Miller has been effective both from the inside (46.5% 2FG) and from range, where she ranks third in the Big West in three-pointers made (15) and 10th in percentage (36.6%). Miller hit a season-high five triples in the win over Dartmouth – all before halftime. It was the second time in her career that she's made five treys in a half, and the fifth time she's made five in a game. The San Clemente, Calif. native has made 126 threes in her career, good for No. 7 in program history. She is currently averaging career-highs in points (12.4), field goal (41.7%) and three-point percentage (36.6%), rebounds (3.9), and assists (2.9).
 
Anugwom Making An Impact
First-year Gaucho Bri Anugwom has been a key contributor for UCSB in her first eight games at the D-I level, coming in third on the team in points (10.6), field goal percentage (43.7%) and minutes (26.3). The former West Los Angeles CC standout has been one of the more reliable shooters on the team as well, currently sitting first in three-point percentage (42.1%), averaging a triple per game, and knocking down 83.3 percent of her free throws. Anugwom has hit the 15-point mark three times this season, including a 21-point career-high (8-12 FG) against Utah Valley in the season-opener and 19 points (6-10 FG) in UCSB's latest win over Grand Canyon.
 
Big West Picture
Despite UCSB's slow start to the season, the Gauchos find themselves just two games out of second place in the conference at this juncture and with as many wins as fifth-place UC Riverside. Currently with the sixth-best overall record, Santa Barbara is one spot higher than its preseason coaches poll prediction.
 
Nat In The Middle
Since the win over Dartmouth, Natalia Bruening has enjoyed the most effective and efficient three-game stretch offensively of her career. The junior center out of Newport Beach, Calif. has made it look easy inside the paint, most often when she is able to catch, turn and shoot without putting the ball on the floor. Standing a tall 6-foot-4, Bruening is averaging 14 ppg over her last three on a sterling 75 percent (15-20 FG) from the field. She notched her third double-double of the season in the win over GCU with 13 points and 10 boards, and currently ranks second in the Big West in field goal percentage (58.2%), fifth in rebounding (7.1) and sixth in blocks (8).
 
Free Throws
While UCSB's offense hasn't gotten out to a highly efficient start to the year overall, shooting 36.1 percent as a team through eight games, the Gauchos have helped themselves by getting to the free throw line with regularity. Santa Barbara is third in the conference with 10.9 free throw makes per game, led by Bruening, who ranks fifth individually with a 23-of-36 (63.9%) mark at the line. The Gauchos have made at least 10 free throws in four straight games. They set a season-high by going 23-for-31 (74.2%) against CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 9, tied for the most free throws made in a game during the Bonne Henrickson era.
 
Predictors of Success
Although the sample size is still 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. In the two games they outrebounded their opponents, both times 39 to 24, they picked up their only two wins thus far, 62-56 over Dartmouth and 66-55 over Grand Canyon. Those wins also yielded the Gauchos' two highest shooting percentages of 47.8% versus the Big Green and 44.2% against the Lopes.
 
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 5.6 ppg. Behind her is freshman Kiana Vierra (3.9 ppg), who has shown signs of being another long-range scoring threat after a four-game stretch in November where she hit 7-of-17 (41.2%) from distance.
 
Starting Lineup Shuffle
UCSB has used six different starting lineups through eight games. This could change with the return of sophomore guard Danae Miller, who was re-inserted to the starting lineup in the last two after being injured to start the season. Coco Miller and Natalia Bruening are the only Gauchos who have started every game thus far.
 
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 gets 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.
 
Bring A Toy, Get In Free!
Any fan who donates a toy valued at $5 or more to the Tigers' Toy Drive will get one free admission ticket to Saturday's game!