Ila Lane was busy filling the lane at both ends of the court for the UCSB women’s basketball team in its season opener on Tuesday at the Thunderdome.
Lane, a freshman center, scored 15 points and had six rebounds and one blocked shot, while junior point guard Danae Miller was perfect from the 3-point line and finished with a game-high 24 points to lead the Gauchos to a 59-51 win over visiting Utah Valley.
Lane scored her first two collegiate points at the free-throw line 42 seconds into the game and went on to have an outstanding opener.
“I’m really excited for Ila to come out that aggressive, that confident,” UCSB fifth-year coach Bonnie Henrickson said. … “It was a really good start. I think if you look where we win it, we win it probably in the first six minutes.”
It would be hard to argue that point.
Behind 10 early points from Lane, the Gauchos stormed out to a 17-2 lead halfway through the first quarter. Although the Wolverines, who trailed by 14 at halftime, got to within one early in the fourth quarter, UCSB held onto the lead and avenged last year’s season-opening loss at Utah Valley.
“We will have some good things to look at on film,” Henrickson said. … “I’m just really excited about what a great start we got off to. It was a really great start.”
Lane, who grew up near St. Mary’s College in Moraga —- which is where the Gauchos will be for their next game on Saturday —- admitted that she had some butterflies before tipoff.
“I can tell you that I was very nervous in the beginning, but starting out, I knew I was going to play with confidence once we got going,” she said. “I was able to go out there and do what I’ve been learning all summer. I just wanted to come out and play my game.
“I think I did a good job blocking out and being physical within the key. I think I was aware of my space and was able to finish strong a lot of times at the basket.”
Miller had a 5-for-5 performance from 3-point range, which included a crucial long-range jumper at the 6:25 mark of the fourth quarter that gave UCSB a 51-45 lead after Utah Valley had cut the deficit to 45-44 with 8:30 to go in regulation.
Miller missed the first six games of last season with a toe injury, but was all smiles after leading her team past the Wolverines on Tuesday.
“I wasn’t really surprised to make five 3-pointers,” she said. “It’s just a good feeling when they go in. As soon as you see one go in, it tends to look good the rest of the time.”
UCSB is coming off of an 8-22 season last year, which is what made the win over Utah Valley feel that much better.
“It’s a great turnaround for us today,” Miller said. “Honestly, we came into this season wanting to totally improve from last season.
“We want to use last year to fuel this year and get the wins that we need. It felt good for me to be able to actually start this season because I wasn’t able to last season. It felt good to come out strong, and with my teammates behind me, it was a great feeling to be out here and play with them for the first time this season.”
UCSB’s only glitch was the third quarter, when Utah Valley finished with a 19-8 advantage to head into the fourth quarter down only 45-42.
“We really just flatlined, offensively, in that third quarter,” Henrickson said.
Eleven Santa Barbara-area elementary schools were represented with students at Tuesday’s game. Henrickson said the kids enthusiasm was definitely felt by the Gauchos.
“It was really fun,” she added. “It’s so good for those kids to come in here and get on campus and get in the Thunderdome.
“You never know what sparks a kid who might say, ‘Hey, I want to do that, I want to go to school there someday. You just never know.”
UCSB finished 19-for-54 shooting (35 percent) and was 6 of 17 from 3-point range (35 percent) and 15-for-20 from the free-throw line (75 percent).