Danae Miller
UCSB senior Danae Miller drives to the hoop against UC Riverside in a quarterfinal game at the Big West Tournament. The Gauchos lost 46-42. (Big West photo)

The UCSB women’s basketball team got off to a hot start in the first quarter of the Big West Tournament quarterfinals against UC Riverside.

But the Gauchos couldn’t sustain the momentum and dropped a 46-42 decision on Wednesday at The Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nev.

UCSB end its season at 15-12 overall while the 14-10 Highlanders advance to the semifinals to face top-seeded Hawaii.

Despite leading for more than 26 minutes of the game, the Gauchos struggled at the offensive end. They scored 23 points in the first quarter and just 19 points for the rest of the game.

“It is just mind-boggling that we struggled that much offensively, honestly,” UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson said after the game. “We had opportunities and we weren’t aggressive enough.”

UCSB hit 9 of 12 from the field and 2-3 on three-pointers in the first quarter and led by five points.

Over the next 30 minutes, however, UCSB shot 8-37 from the field.

“It’s hard to understand how you go from being so good. I told these guys that we were in great rhythm, we were in sync, moving together, and then we just weren’t,” Henrickson said. “That’s disappointing, especially for our seniors. It’s disappointing to go out that way, but we didn’t get it done.”

Henrickson said the team was taking more disciplined shots and not forcing anything in the first quarter.

Junior transfer Alexis Tucker led the Gauchos with 14 points, with 10 coming in the first quarter on 4-of-6 shooting.

Tucker said the team’s decision-making could have been better.

“We could have made some better decisions down the stretch, and then we picked up some fouls. So there were some things that were going on in the game that weren’t going our way,” Tucker said. “We did a good job of staying in it, but we just had to knock down some shots.”

Junior forward Ila Lane scored eight points but played just 25 minutes as she was in foul trouble in the second quarter and early in the third.

“I’m not going to try to dismiss the fact that that’s impactful, but it’s not an excuse. You still gotta play,” Henrickson said.

In her final game as a Gaucho, guard Danae Miller finished with nine points to go along with a game-high five assists.

She said after the game she was thankful to get to play her final year after being worried about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year meant a lot. I was lucky enough to get this last year due to COVID from last year, so I really wanted to come back and come with this heavy-hitter team and come back with a ring,” Miller said. “We came up short but we’ve done a great job. We fought a lot of ups and downs on and off the court.  I still enjoyed every moment of it. I just wish it had a better outcome.”

UCSB led 23-18 after the first quarter. The team scored just six points in the second and still managed to lead at halftime. 

Megan Anderson hit a three-pointer and Tucker scored a coast-to-coast layup to take a 36-28 lead lead with 5:30 left to go in the third quarter.

Santa Barbara would then go scoreless nearly the rest of the way. Miller scored a driving layup with one second left in the period to give her team a 38-36 lead.

UC Riverside scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 38.

The Gauchos would come up empty on their next five offensive possessions. Riverside knocked down a 3-pointer to take a 41-38 lead with 5:57 left to go in the game.

Anya Choice brought UCSB to within one point with 5:34 left to go. But the Gauchos would go scoreless again over the final 5:23. They missed their next seven shots and committing two turnovers over that stretch.

A basket by Lane with 11 seconds left cut UCR’s lead to two, but the Highlanders iced the game at the free-throw line.