UCSB Returns Home, Faces UC Davis Thursday, CSUN Saturday

UCSB Returns Home, Faces UC Davis Thursday, CSUN Saturday
 
The Schedule
Thursday, Feb. 7, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (4-16, 1-6) vs. UC Davis (15-6, 7-1)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Aggies: 17-19
Last Meeting: L, 69-63 @ UCD (1/27/18)
Live Stats | Video
 
Saturday, Feb. 2, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (4-16, 1-6) vs. CSUN (11-11, 5-3)
The Thunderdome – Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-Time Record vs. the Matadors: 44-20
Last Meeting: L, 72-63 @ CSF (BWT) (3/7/18)
 
Road Recap
UC Santa Barbara had one of its highest-scoring two-game stretches of the season this past weekend, averaging 64 points in two games on the road, but couldn't come away with a win falling at UC Irvine, 74-68, and UC Riverside, 73-60. Guards Bri Anugwom and Tal Sahar led the Gauchos at 14 and 13 points per game, respectively. UCSB also knocked down a season-high 10 three-pointers against the Highlanders, but shot just 38.4 percent from the field and 29.6 percent on threes as a team for the weekend.
 
Big West: Two Top-Three Teams Come To Town
With the midpoint of the Big West season coming up this Thursday, UCSB (4-16, 1-6) remains locked in a tie with Cal Poly (4-14, 1-6) for the No. 8 seed in the conference. Both teams are currently two games back from seventh place. For the Gauchos to shrink that gap this week, they would have to come away with a win against one of the top-three teams in the conference, either first place UC Davis or defending Big West Tournament champion CSUN.
 
At 15-6 overall and 7-1 in conference, the Aggies currently hold the No. 1 seed. The two-time defending Big West regular season champs possess both the top scoring offense (69.6 ppg) and scoring defense (53.0 ppg) during conference play. Their average margin of victory of +16.6 points is miles ahead of second-leading CSUN (+6.8). UC Davis is simply efficient from every spot on the floor, posting the highest field goal (.458) and three-point percentage (.410) in the conference. Senior forward Morgan Bertsch (24.3 ppg) is the only Big West player averaging over 20 points a night in 2019.
 
The Matadors (11-11, 5-3) meanwhile are led by two-time Big West Player of the Year Channon Fluker, who leads the nation with 3.68 blocks per game and is seventh with 15 double-doubles in 22 appearances. The senior center also leads the Big West with 10.8 boards a night. CSUN has allowed the lowest field goal percentage (.322) to Big West opponents and has been the best rebounding team (44.5 rpg) by miles since the start of conference play, posting a +11 rebounding margin.
 
Coco In A Slump
Since going on the most prolific five-game stretch of her career offensively in which she scored at least 20 points four times in five games, redshirt junior guard Coco Miller has gone cold. Over her last four games, she is averaging 8.3 points per game on just 14.3 percent (8-56 FG) shooting. Even still, she is averaging career-highs this year in a number of categories: points (13.3), assists (2.8), steals (1.9), and minutes (35.1). It has become clear over the season that, if Miller is on, UCSB has a chance to win – she is averaging 20.8 points in wins, compared to 11.4 in losses. Her 2.0 three-pointers per game rank second in the conference, while her 152 career triples put her in a tie with Makala Roper for No. 5 all-time in the UCSB record book.

Increased Aggression
Sophomore point guard Danae Miller has provided some much-needed backcourt production playing beside Coco Miller, and she has only gotten better as the season has gone along. Danae owns the conference's sixth-highest scoring average (12.1 ppg) during league play – just 0.5 points behind Coco – having scored in double-figures in seven of her last nine. Danae has also been one of UCSB's most consistent playmakers, recording four or more assists in 10 of her last 13. Along with scoring, she is also in the Big West's top-10 for both assists (3.9 apg, 5th) and rebounds (5.9 rpg, 9th).
 
Sahar's Shooting Returns
Redshirt junior guard Tal Sahar returned from a two-game absence over the weekend and proceeded to score 13 points per game on 45.8 percent (11-24 FG) shooting, easily her most efficient two-game shooting stretch of the season. Sahar went 4-of-8 from three against UCR, her third game of the year making at least four triples. Despite the missed games, she still sits ninth in the Big West in made three-pointers (28).
 
Paint Producer
Natalia Bruening has been one of the Gauchos' top producers since becoming the team's starting center, but that production stalled this past week. The junior averaged 3.0 points and 3.5 rebounds on UCSB's two-game road trip and was held scoreless for the third time this season in the loss at UCR. Foul trouble has been an issue at times for Bruening, but she had just one foul and one rebound against the Highlanders in 14 minutes.  This came on the heels of a three-game stretch in which she put up 15.7 points on 65.6 percent shooting. Bruening still leads the Big West in field goal percentage (.574) during league play and is UCSB's second-leading scorer (9.8 ppg) on the year.
 
Making An Impact
In her first season as a Gaucho, sophomore guard Bri Anugwom has been a key role player, coming in fourth on the team in scoring (9.3 ppg) and maintaining the highest free throw percentage (.889) in the conference. The former West Los Angeles CC standout had cooled off offensively until this past weekend, when she scored in double-figures in back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two months, averaging 14 points on 50 percent shooting during the two-game road trip. She has also been crashing the boards with regularity, currently tied for fourth during conference play with 7.3 boards per game.
 
Three-Point Shooting Woes
UCSB has been ice cold from three-point range, shooting a league-worst 23.6 percent as a team in 2019. The worst may be behind the Gauchos though, as they got back on track somewhat with a season-high 10 three-pointers on 33 attempts (.303) against the Highlanders. The team had been enjoying an upward trend in its three-point shooting each year under Bonnie Henrickson, going from 29.8 percent in 2015-16, to 34.2 and 35.2 percent in the two following years, but that has dropped to 25.5 percent in 2018-19. Surprisingly, the outside shooting issues have been more noticeable at home, where UCSB has shot 19.7 percent from range, compared to 29.5 percent away from the Thunderdome.
 
Get On The Glass!
Rebounds had been an early predictor of success for the Gauchos, who won four of their first five games this year when outrebounding their opponent. However, despite despite outrebounding each of their last three opponents, the Gauchos have now lost four straight, moving them to 4-4 in games where they have a positive rebounding margin. They are averaging a +14.8 rebounding margin in their four wins this year and a -7.0 in losses.
 
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.