The UCSB women’s basketball team was ultimately doomed by its slow start on Saturday, as the Gauchos fell to Long Beach State 62-53.
As has been the case for much of the season, Santa Barbara was sluggish out of the gate, scoring merely six points in the first quarter. While junior center Natalie Bruening put up four points and four rebounds in the quarter, the rest of the team shot a combined 1-11 from the floor.
Motivated by its loss at the Thunderdome earlier this season, LBSU scored 16 points in the first quarter behind a solid 39 percent shooting. Star sophomore guard Shaniajah Davison led the team with five points, while sophomore forward Naomi Hunt also chipped in with four points for Beach.
Ultimately, that early 10-point deficit would prove to be insurmountable for the Gauchos. Despite UCSB clawing its way back in the second and third quarters, LBSU closed the game on a 21-12 run to claim victory in a crucial conference matchup.
After seeing guards Danae and Coco Miller dominate UC Irvine last week, Long Beach’s game plan was simple: Force other Gauchos to score the ball. With the defense constantly hounding her, sophomore Danae Miller played one of her least efficient games of the season, scoring only nine points on 4-16 shooting while also turning the ball over five times.
Junior Coco Miller also struggled mightily on Saturday, scoring only three points, courtesy of a single three-pointer. Just as most teams have done in Big West play, Long Beach made sure that every shot Coco Miller had was contested, with Coco only able to get off seven shots on the night.
Despite the loss, Bruening put in one of her best shifts on the season, dropping in 16 points to go along with eight rebounds. The Gauchos also received great play from junior guard Tal Sahar off the bench, who led all bench scorers with 13 points.
Unfortunately for Santa Barbara, both Bruening and Sahar didn’t receive much help on Saturday. As a team, the Gauchos were dominated on the boards, getting outrebounded by a total of 43-30 by a Long Beach team that typically struggles on the boards.
Outside of Sahar’s 13 points off the bench, Santa Barbara only scored three points off the bench, with the team getting outscored by LBSU’s bench on the day.
While Long Beach also struggled from the floor, they did just enough to come away with their fifth conference win on the season. With all of LBSU’s starters struggling with their efficiency, forward Lauren Green provided a key spark off of the bench, scoring 12 points on an impressive 60 percent shooting clip from the floor.
Hunt also proved to be a handful on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds to go along with her 13 points on the night. Despite shooting only 36 percent as a team, Long Beach was able to turn its 11 offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points — a number that ultimately proved to be the difference.
Despite a trying week for the Gauchos, the team will need to regroup and refocus for their game against Cal Poly on Wednesday. After Cal Poly upset Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, the Mustangs and Gauchos are once again tied in eighth place with a 3-10 conference record. With only three conference games yet to be played, Wednesday’s matchup between the two sides could be crucial in deciding which team gets a birth to the Big West Tournament.