UCLA played by far their toughest game of the season today as #2 Stanford came to Pauley with a 12-1 record, losing only on the road to #1 UCONN. Stanford had been blazing through all of their competition besides the huskies all season long, including a recent 20 point victory over USC. The game started no differently today. With the exception of when Moniquee Alexander was on the court, Stanford had a size and length advantage at every spot on the court, shutting the paint off and disrupting passing lanes. UCLA would not even score into double digits until Nina Earl hit a shot with under 8 minutes left to play in the half. With 24 seconds left in the first half, Stanford had taken a 34-14 lead, was killing us on the boards, and was getting favorable treatment from the refs (the game was not called very consistently), and it would have been easy to think that UCLA was outmatched. UCLA would finish the half on a mini 4-0 run thanks to 2 freethrows by Doreena Campbell and a Jasmin Dixon layup at the buzzer to go into halftime down 34-18.
The second half saw a UCLA team that absolutely refused to give up and battle Stanford to the end. UCLA started the half on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 34-25. Stanford would hit a 3 to stop UCLA's run. It felt like today Stanford would hit a 3 after every mini UCLA run to try and crush the momentum that UCLA would build up. UCLA made only 1 3 all game on 9 attempts, while Stanford would make 6-15 all at critical moments. However, everytime Stanford would hit a big 3, UCLA wouldn't break and continued to press hard. UCLA was getting hammered by the refs all day by minor touch fouls giving Stanford 24 trips to the line, and it seemed like anytime Nnemkadi Ogwumike touched the ball, the refs would give her a call.
However, UCLA would start to pound the ball inside in the second half and put Stanford's dominating post tandem, Ogwumike and Jayne Appel in foul trouble, as both would have to sit stretches of the second half with 4 fouls. This allowed UCLA to slowly cut into Stanford's lead. Stanford would hold to around a 7 point lead from the 14 minute mark to the 7 minute mark. That lead would shrink to around a 4 point game until under 2 minutes left in the game when UCLA would cut the lead to 2 points. After a Markel Walker layup with 1 minute left cut the lead to 63-61, Kayla Pedersen would miss a shot giving UCLA the ball down 2 and a final chance to tie or win the game. Doreena Campbell would miss a shot with 8 seconds left, though it really looked like she was hit on the arm but no call was made. Stanford would get the rebound, and after a UCLA foul, would hit 2 freethrows for the final score of 65-61.
Looking at the box score, besides the 3 point shooting for Stanford, their size was a major factor in outrebounding the bruins, 41-30. One of the major reasons UCLA was able to stay with Stanford was by playing a nearly mistake free game, committing only 9 turnovers to 16 for Stanford. Both benches would only score 4 points, making the game a battle of the Starters. Stanford features 2 all americans, and UCLA was able to hold their own. Doreena Campbell would finish with a team high 17 points, with Jasmin Dixon (16, 10 rebounds), Darxia Morris (14), and Markel Walker (10, all in the last 8 minutes) would score in double figures. UCLA would outshoot Stanford for the game 42% to 37%, and held Stanford below their season average (of 80) by 15 points.
After the game, Nikki was proud of the team for fighting so hard in the second half, playing tough defense and getting good looks at the basket. It is unfortunate that our offense took so long to get going, or this may have been a different game. The crowd noise was amazing. I, and most people i talked to after the game, felt that this was the most exciting game we've seen at Pauley all season, mens or womens, and it would be amazing if the team continued to get the crowd support that it received today.
Now 10-5 (3-1), UCLA faces USC next weekend at the Galen center in a big battle for one of the coveted top 3 spots in the conference. USC was a 3 point winner today over Cal, meaning both teams will be coming in with a 3-1 conference record. UCLA hasn't won at USC since i've been here, and no doubt this will be a tough fought game. The game will be televised on FSN at 2:30pm, but i will be there with a section of the die-hard fans from the band/yell crew to try and will our team on to victory.