On a night when she was honored for her shooting, Coco Miller made passing a priority for the UCSB women’s basketball team.
Miller dished out a career-high 14 assists and freshman center Ila Lane had a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Gauchos to a 72-67 win over Ottawa University of Arizona on Monday night at the Thunderdome.
Prior to tipoff, Miller was given a game ball to commemorate her 1,000th career point that she scored in UCSB’s last home game on Dec. 5 against Pacific.
“It meant a lot,” UCSB’s senior guard said of the pregame ceremony. “My family was here at the game and got to see that, so it was pretty neat to see them in the crowd. They’ve been supporting me my entire career, so it was really nice to have them here tonight.”
Miller’s previous high in assists was eight. She shattered that with nine in the second half on Monday.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it with my teammates,” she said. “Playing with Ila is fun. She catches everything and finishes well. My teammates did a great job of finishing the passes that I made to them.”
While the Gauchos broke a four-game losing streak with their first victory since Dec. 1, coach Bonnie Henrickson expressed a little disappointment with her team’s defensive effort at times in the second half. UCSB built a 20 point lead in the third quarter before Ottawa was able to whittle it down to nine at 64-55 with 5:04 remaining in the fourth.
Senior guard Tal Sahar and Lane made back-to-back baskets to give the Gauchos a 13-point lead, but it was a lack of defense that allowed the Spirit to trim the deficit to single digits that had Henrickson’s attention.
“We just allowed so many downhill drives and penetration. We get caught staring and our inability to contain one-on-one in the middle of the floor is a problem for us right now,” UCSB’s fifth-year coach said. “Were looking for who’s going to guard? Who’s going to guard? And we don’t have an answer for that right now.
“That has to get better for us.”
UCSB junior point guard Danae Miller started the game for the Gauchos, but an ankle injury ended her night before halftime. Freshman point guard Johnni Gonzalez was unavailable because of an eye condition. Henrickson admitted that the loss of her two point guards played a role in the Gauchos’ defensive struggles.
“Granted, Johnni and Danae, our two best defenders, they don’t go tonight, but we have to have others step up,” Henrickson said. Our league has three or four guards on teams that can make a play.
Our two (Danae and Johnni) can’t guard four, so se have to have at least two other players who can guard someone. We really didn’t find an answer for that tonight. We need an answer by next week.”
That’s when UCSB opens Big West Conference play on Jan. 9 at home against Cal State Fullerton.
“We have got to guard the ball and get tougher,” Henrickson added. “We’ve got to go get a loose ball and just be tougher. We’ve been in enough one-possession games to know how important every loose ball is, so that has to get better, as well.”
The Gauchos shot the ball well from the field, finishing 27-57 (47.4 percent). They were also solid from the free-throw line, hitting 12 of 16 (75 percent). Ottawa finished at 30 percent (19-for-63) from the field. The Spirit was very good at the free-throw line, however, finishing 14-for-17 (82.4 percent). Neither team was very effective from the 3-point line.
UCSB’s next game is its conference opener on Jan. 9 at home against Cal State Fullerton.