Not sure how many of you got to watch this game this afternoon on FSN but in case you missed it Coach Nikki Caldwell and her Bruins just pulled off perhaps the most significant win in her rookie year in Westwood.
Forget Coach Howland or Neuheisel. Coach Caldwell is off to one of the hottest starts a UCLA head coach has had in recent years as her Bruins just pulled off their 7th consecutive win by beating a 7-1 Kansas Jayhawks team in a total nailbiter in Pauley. Caldwell's Bruins are now have a record of 9-1, posting the best start our women's basketball program has had in 28 years. From the official site:
With 27 seconds remaining in the contest and UCLA clinging to a one-point lead, Bruin sophomore forward Christina Nzekwe grabbed the rebound of a missed Jayhawk free throw attempt and was fouled. Nzekwe then hit both ends of the one-and-one opportunity to put the Bruins up, 67-64. Kansas misfired on two three-point shot attempts in the final seconds, and Nzekwe stole the ball after the second attempt to preserve the Bruin win.
Kansas led by as many as six points in the first half, 19-13 at the 10:30 mark, before the Bruins scored seven straight in a minute and a half to take the lead at 20-19. The Jayhawks reclaimed a three-point lead before junior guard Allison Taka banked in a long three-pointer to tie the score at 23-all. Sophomore guard Doreena Campbell hit a pair of free throws to move the Bruins ahead, 25-23. A Nina Earl steal and layup followed by a Campbell jumper gave UCLA its biggest lead, 35-28, with 1:52 left in the half. Kansas responded with a quick 7-0 run to tie, but Campbell ended the half with a layup to send the Bruins into the locker room at halftime with a 37-35 lead.
The Jayhawks opened the second half with a 6-2 run to regain the lead, 41-39, and the lead see-sawed several times before UCLA went on a 12-0 run over a three-minute stretch to claim a 55-46 advantage at the 10-minute mark. Kansas answered with a 10-2 scoring run of its own to pull to within one, 57-56, with 7:43 to play. Five straight Jayhawk turnovers opened the door for UCLA to take a four-point lead, 60-56, with 5:22 remaining. Kansas closed to within one, 63-62, with 1:42 left, but Nzekwe hit a layup to increase the lead to three with 1:23 on the clock.
The teams then traded missed shots, and with 36 seconds left in the contest, Kansas' Sade Morris sunk a pair of free throws to help KU creep to within one again at 65-64. Kansas committed its sixth team foul on the subsequent Bruin possession and then forced a UCLA turnover on the inbounds pass with 31 seconds to play. On the resulting KU inbounds play, UCLA's Darxia Morris fouled LaChelda Jacobs on a steal attempt. Jacobs missed the front end of the bonus free throw situation, the Jayhawks' first miss from the line after 12 straight made attempts, and Nzekwe grabbed the rebound. She was fouled with 27 seconds left and hit both free throws to give UCLA a 67-64 lead. Morris blocked McCray's three-point attempt with 17 seconds remaining, but the Bruins could not control the rebound. McCray then missed another three-pointer and got the offensive board with four seconds on the clock, but Nzekwe stole the ball and threw it down the court as time expired.
I caught the last 4-5 mins of the game and it was nerve wrecking as some of the intense Ben Ball game we have seen in recent years. Per the announcers this was the first close call in this early season for Caldwell's team. And even though they were almost victimized by two consecutive bad foul calls (SPTRS?), they held on for the win thanks to two clutch FTs from Christina Nzekwe who seemed to be struggling at the line most of the game.
Again absolutely a huge win for this program. They will have a serious challenge ahead of them in the next game at Texas Tech. But no matter what happens in that game, pulling out tonight's nail biter against a solid Big-12 program will give these ladies an enoromous confidence boost under their new head coach heading into a tough conference season.
These ladies are worthy of all of our support and if you live on or around campus or in Southern California in general, we highly recommend you go out to Pauley and give these fiery student athletes the same kind of passionate support reserved for our Ben Ball warriors.
Great freaking win.