Even with a dominant showing in the fourth quarter, the UCSB women’s basketball team lost a hard fought game to the CSUB Roadrunners 56-48 on Friday night.
The Gauchos dropped to 0-2 with the loss, while Bakersfield is still perfect with a 2-0 record after the win.
The game seemed like it was going to go down to the wire from the jump.
Both teams traded shots the first quarter, yet the whistles were the dominant narrative. There were 12 foul calls for both teams combined in the quarter, and although the Gauchos were only able to knock down one field goal, their six free throws helped keep them in the game at 8-12 when the quarter was over.
One issue for UCSB that was apparent in the first and never really went away was the focus on lateral ball movement compared to penetration in the paint.
Guards Paris Jones and Coco Miller were tasked with most of the ball-handling in the first half, yet instead of driving the ball in, they either hoisted threes or swung the ball to the wing, and in a game where shots were not falling, this lead to a quiet offense for most of the half.
“We don’t get good looks, we don’t get offensive rebounds until we start to drive the ball,” Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We needed to get paint touches and force the defense to rotate.”
Bakersfield did not have this problem, as the Roadrunners went on a big run to start off the second quarter. Behind a strong showing by redshirt senior guard JJ Johnson, who would finish with a solid 10 points and three assists, Bakersfield was able to use interior touches to open up the three-point line.
This lead to a 20-6 run in favor of the Roadrunners to close out the half with a 32-14 lead.
The only blemish for the team was their inability to stop fouling, which gave the Gauchos at least a semblance of offensive production from the foul line. UCSB would eventually finish 23-31 from the line compared to 12-17 for Bakersfield, and free throws played a huge role in keeping the door open for a Gaucho comeback.
The third quarter was similar to the first in that both teams seemed content to trade buckets. UCSB was able to whittle down the lead a bit, thanks to the energy of sophomore guard Bri Anugwom.
Anugwom only finished the game with nine points on 2-9 shooting, yet her rebounding and interior presence helped jumpstart the UCSB offense when it needed it the most.
“Bri drove it downhill, got an and one. If you’re gonna get back you gotta make threes, you gotta score quick and you gotta score free throws,” coach Henrickson said. “And we got a combination of all three of those [From Anugwom].”
This energy seemed to be contagious, and about midway through the last quarter the Gauchos finally started humming on offense. Baskets from freshmen Kiana Vierra and Megan Ormiston provided much-needed points from the bench, and gave the starters some space to create for themselves.
UCSB went on a run of their own to cut what was originally a 20-point lead to just two points with a little over a minute to go in the game off of free throws by junior center Natalia Bruening. With the departure of scoring machine Drew Edelman from the team this year, Bruening will have to pick up the slack from the center position. She struggled with the Roadrunner bigs early on, but as she got settled (and they got in foul trouble), Natalia was able to impose her will in the paint late in the game.
It ended up being a case of too little, too late, however, as after Anugwom missed a potentially game-tying layup with just a minute to go, the Roadrunners were able to hold on to the ball and make the Gauchos play the fouling game, which led to the 56-48 final score.
Ultimately, it was a good sign moving forward for the Gauchos to display the fight that they did when down 20 points. The key now will be finding a way to channel that energy into their starts, and ensuring that they won’t always have to come back to finish.