Size, or lack thereof, has been a problem for the UCSB women’s basketball team this season.
Sunday was no exception.
Behind a stellar performance by Kayla Williams and a strong rebounding effort, the UC Irvine Anteaters defeated UC Santa Barbara, 64-60, at the Thunderdome. The Anteaters outrebounded the Gauchos 49-39, with 22 of them coming at the offensive end. When Irvine wasn’t missing, it was usually Williams who was making shots. She finished with a game-high 25 points in the Big West Conference opener for both teams.
“She’s really good, really dynamic with the ball in her hands,” UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “She’s really effective on on-ball screens and obviously she can get to the rim and finish. She’s a talented young little guard in our league, and certainly not anything that we weren’t expecting.”
Trailing 11-7 in the first quarter, the Anteaters went on a 10-0 run. When they took the lead at 13-11, they never trailed again the rest of the way.
After UCSB tied the score at 29-29 early in the third quarter, Irvine went on another 10-0 run, fueled by five points from Williams. The Gauchos did themselves no favors throughout the game by committing 18 turnovers.
“I think we committed five turnovers in seven possessions,” Henrickson said of her team’s start to the third quarter. “We had terrible shot selections, unforced turnovers, and then they’re in transition and getting to the rim. We were our own worst enemy.”
Defensively, the Gauchos weren’t that bad.
They held the Anteaters to just 31% (22 of 72) shooting from the field, and 23% (3-for-13) from 3-point range. Where UCSB got hurt was in rebounding and transition, which most of the time came off a turnover.
“We’ve got to get guys off the glass, I mean that’s 22 offensive rebounds,” Henrickson said. “Everybody but one kid got an offensive rebound, and most of them got two, three or four.
“Until we take a personal responsibility for that, it doesn’t matter what defense you’re in. You’ve got to create contact and be physical and handle the physicality.”
Senior point guard Danae Miller, the Gauchos’ second-leading scorer at 13 points per game, heated up in the second half after getting off to a very slow start in the first half. Miller, who was held to two points in the first half, erupted for 16 in the second to finish with a team-high 18 points.
Forward Taylor Mole, playing in her first game of the season for UCSB, finished with 15 points and three blocked shots. At 6-foot-2, Mole is the only player on the active roster who gives the Gauchos any kind of presence in the paint. Mole also made two 3-pointers.
“She did a nice job,” Henrickson said. “She’s long, she blocked three shots and helped us on the glass. That’s what we see every day (in practice) so none of us are surprised. It’s nice to be able to see her do it in a uniform and help us, because she certainly can score.”
UCSB finished 20 of 56 (36%) from the field, and 9-for-26 (35%) from 3-point range. The Gauchos (0-5) also had their best game of the early season at the free-throw line, finishing 11 of 12. UC Irvine was 17-for-21 from the charity stripe. It was the Anteaters first win over UCSB at the Thunderdome since 2015.
The two teams play again tonight in a Big West Conference game at the Thunderdome beginning at 5 p.m.