UC SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team opened its 2019-20 regular season with a thrilling win in the Thunderdome against Utah Valley on Tuesday afternoon, hosting an upstart crowd composed mainly of students from local elementary schools that provided no shortage of enthusiasm throughout the game.
Junior guard Danae Miller's 24 points and five-for-five night from beyond the arc helped the Gauchos avenge the season-opening loss they suffered last season at Utah Valley. Freshman center Ila Lane contributed 15 points and six rebounds in 33 minutes to help the Gauchos begin the season with a victory.
Lane was joined by fellow freshmen Johnni Gonzalez and Nyalam Thabach in making their UCSB debuts.
"It's a good start for us- a really good start. We were excited that Ila came out that aggressive, that confident, we trusted her," said head coach Bonnie Henrickson after the game.
The Gauchos started off with a bang, opening on a 15-5 run in the first five and a half minutes of the game. A late foul with 34.3 seconds left from the Wolverines onto Danae Miller earned her a pair of free throws to get the Gauchos over the 20-point mark in the opening stanza, closing the period with a 21-12 lead.
As the game transitioned into the second quarter, the Gauchos stayed in good form with an early triple from redshirt senior guard Coco Miller.
In the final minute before halftime, Gonzalez, Danae Miller, and Coco Miller each contributed to a six-point run, with senior guard Tal Sahar putting up two blocks to keep momentum from swinging, for the Gauchos to go up 37-23.
Utah Valley picked up the pace after halftime with a 7-0 run of their own, closing in on the Gauchos' advantage and cutting the lead to 37-30 with 5:48 left in the third quarter.
After a timeout, the two teams traded layups before Danae Miller turned crisp passes from Coco Miller and Gonzalez into a pair of three-pointers to extend the lead to 45-34 with just over two minutes left.
However, the Wolverines would keep things tight with an 8-0 run to close the gap to just three points entering the fourth quarter.
"Good energy throughout [the game for us], but we have to address that lull in which we weren't aggressive. We just have to move the ball," continued Henrickson.
A layup from Utah Valley's Josie Williams a minute and a half into the fourth quarter meant the Gauchos' lead had shrunk to a single point, but the Gauchos showed plenty of resolve with Lane and Gonzalez putting points back on the board before Danae Miller pulled off back-to-back threes to give the Gauchos some breathing room with a nine-point lead with 6:25 left on the clock.
Santa Barbara would keep its lead over the rest of the game, earning its second season-opening win in the past three seasons.
The Gauchos will head north to face St. Mary's on Friday night. The game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, Calif. Links to live stats and a live audio broadcast are available on the women's basketball schedule page.
Story courtesy of UCSB Athletics.