UCLA finally got not only a quality win for their tournament resume, but a meaningful road victory for the first time in ages. UCLA hadn't beaten ASU on the road since 2003, or swept the Arizona schools on the road since the 1999-2000 campaign. Nikki Caldwell's preseason goal of challenging the Bruins with tough non-conference road and neutral site games to prepare for road play in conference has paid off, as UCLA controlled the game from start to finish. I didn't see the game with my own eyes, but I did follow along on gamecast and UCLA was firmly in control.
UCLA started off the game up 7-0. A combination of suffocating defense and frigid shooting for the devils caused them to not score their first point for over 6 minutes, or their first basket for over 7 minutes. ASU would finish the half making only 4 shots, shooting 25% for the half, turning the ball over constantly. UCLA would close out the half up 17, and never allow the game to go closer than 12 points in the second half before winning by 18.
Looking at the box score, UCLA only outrebounded ASU 28-25, had only 2 less turnovers (24 vs 26, a very sloppy game), and was even outshot at the freethrow line, with ASU attempting a whopping 38 freethrows, making 27. This reflects one of my concerns this season with UCLA picking up a large number of fouls and putting other teams in the bonus early in the half. However, it was the shooting that carried the day as UCLA made 29 baskets on 60% shooting while ASU made only 14 all game on 34% shooting.
4 Bruins scored in double digits, led by Markel Walker with 24 points, to go along with Jasmin Dixon's 21 (and 11 rebounds), 11 for Darxia Morris, and 11 for Doreena Campbell. What makes this team so dangerous is that the Bruins have 5 players that can go off on any given night (Walker, Dixon, Morris, Campbell, Tukiainen), so even if you stop one or two, one of the others will probably step up. Interestingly Erica Tukiainen was pacing the team early in the season and was scorching from 3 point range, though recently has cooled down and scored 0 points today, attempting only 2 shots.
I know many of us have been concerned with the defense of our mens team. Well, the women have been playing stellar defense, as no team has scored more than 61 points on the Bruins all season long. Now sitting at 9-4 (2-0), UCLA will return home to face Cal and Stanford. Stanford is clearly the class of the pac-10 right now, so anyone who can make it to Pauley, the game is Sunday at 2pm, and the team could use as big of a home court advantage against the #2 team in the nation it can get.
Interestingly, with both UCLA and USC sweeping the Arizona schools, and Cal looking mediocre, it seems that the road for second place in the conference no longer runs through the bay area or ASU, but the LA schools. Usually stanford would take the conference with ASU and Cal rounding out the top 3, but at this moment in time it looks like UCLA and USC are the front runners to hold on to the top spots in the conference, and hopefully earn one of the few tournament bids our conference gets.