After a slow start, the UCSB women’s basketball team got out of its funk in time to defeat CSUN, 65-60, on Thursday night in a Big West Conference game at the Thunderdome.
It was the Gauchos second straight win over the Matadors in a five-day span. UCSB also scored a 65-55 victory in Northridge last Saturday. As for Thursday night’s game, the Gauchos didn’t score their first points until the 3:41 mark of the first quarter, when junior point guard Danae Miller knocked down a 3-pointer. Fortunately for the Gauchos, CSUN’s offense was sputtering as well. The Matadors scored just two points in the first quarter, allowing UCSB to lead, 11-2, entering the second quarter.
“We were just excited, sped up,” Miller said of her team’s sluggish start. “We felt the energy coming into this game. Honestly, once we just settled down and got into our flow and stopped rushing everything and pushing ourselves faster than we needed to go, we got right into our groove and it was good after that.”
Miller had an exceptional game.
She scored 21 points, which included going 6-for-14 from the field, 2-for-4 from 3-point range and 7 of 8 at the free-throw line. She also had five rebounds, four assists and only two turnovers. Miller, like her teammates, didn’t start off well. But she picked up her game and was the Gauchos’ floor general over the final three-plus quarters.
“She kind of went through a stretch where she was struggling and got scored on … and then she just answered,” UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “She got tougher and she got more disciplined. That’s what you’re looking for in those moments.
“A lot of times you can’t be tough for 40 minutes of a game, but there are moments in a game when you’ve got to find some toughness, and she found it. It was really impressive.”
Freshman center Ila Lane was also impressive for the Gauchos, and she, too, started slowly.
Lane finished with her 16th double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds. She is second in the nation in rebounds per game with an average of 13.1 per contest. Early on against Northridge, Lane struggled to get good looks at the basket because the Matadors’ defense was really tough on her.
“They were really physical with her and she couldn’t get high-percentage shots early on,” Henrickson said. “Then she kind of got herself sped up trying to get going. They were really physical with her. And then she kind of settled in and then she got going. With her tonight it was poise and composure, poise and composure.”
After leading 32-15 at halftime, the Gauchos went up by as many as 18 in the third quarter. And just as it looked like UCSB would blow CSUN off the floor, the Matadors rallied. They got to within six late in the third quarter and trimmed the deficit to 63-60 late in the fourth. The Gauchos held on, but not before Henrickson had to use her full complement of four timeouts to settle her team down late in the game.
“They just drove it down hill and went to the rim and got fouled,” Henrickson said of the Matadors. “We got tentative and we missed a bunch of shots at the rim. We also turned the ball over a little bit, and they got momentum. We held on to escape that one.
“Give them credit. I thought they did a really good job, but give us credit because I thought we answered when we needed to, to get some separation, then held on. We can’t put ourselves in that situation again where we’re hanging on.”
Miller also had a feeling it wouldn’t be easy, even though her team had a healthy double-digit advantage.
“We knew that they weren’t going to shut it down,” she said. “They were going to try to come back, attack harder, rebound harder, play harder defense and put more pressure on us. That’s just the kind of team they are.”
UCSB (11-14, 6-6 Big West Conference) shot 39% (20-51) from the field and 30% (6-20) from 3-point range. The Gauchos were also very good from the free-throw line, finishing 19-24 (79%).
Up next for UCSB is a home game on Saturday afternoon against UC Riverside at 2 p.m.
“They score at multiple positions, their bigs are good and a couple of their players shoot the three really well,” Henrickson said of the Highlanders. “They’ve got a bunch of players that shoot 15-to-17 foot jumpers on a catch. They don’t dribble the ball much. Their guards can post and they can score in so many different ways.
UCSB got off to a dreadful start and lost to UCR, 66-61, in Riverside on Jan. 18.
“We’ve got to be disruptive. They’re big, they’re physical and we’ve got to be able to penetrate, get downhill and manufacture some offense at the free-throw line,” Henrickson said of Saturday’s game. “We got off to a terrible start there. It was like 18-5 and I think I used two timeouts in the first quarter. That can’t happen this time around. We can’t put ourselves in that kind of a hole here on Saturday. We’ve got to be solid and get off to a really good start.”