UCLA entered last night's match-up against LMU (4-3) with a slight bump in the polls, up to #12 in the ESPN poll, while still #13 in the AP. Myself and 16 others took a ride down the 405S to LMU to witness the game live. LMU plays in what feels like a highschool gym, and the close quarters gave our small presence a much louder sound. The first thing we noticed was that Jasmine Dixon was not suited up to play. After a hard collision late in the Temple game, she had been showing concussion-like symptoms, and was held out of the game as a precaution. With that, we would see how UCLA would perform against average competition without their best player, on the road.
The game started off going back and forth, with UCLA's offense dominating the boards but having little to show for it, and the teams traded leads until LMU went up 12-11 at the 12 minute mark. A 13-0 run for the Bruins in which 5 different Bruins scored gave UCLA a 24-12 lead with 6 minutes remaining in the first half. UCLA pushed their lead as high as 14, at 30-16, though LMU closed out the half on a 8-2 run to have the Bruins go into the locker room at half up 32-24. At halftime, UCLA had more rebounds than LMU had points, that's how much UCLA was dominating the boards.
The second half started out very frustratingly for UCLA, as their rebounding was dominating, but UCLA wasn't converting on the offensive end, and at one point UCLA had more rebounds (38) than points (36). LMU started to hit some 3s as they chipped away at the Bruin lead. 4 3-pointers, the last of which was a 4 point play, keyed a 13-6 run to start the half for the Lions, and suddenly with 13 minutes remaining, the lead had been cut to 38-37, LMU's small fan base was getting loud, and I was getting nervous that the team offensively was too dysfunctional without Dixon on the court. Thankfully, UCLA scored the next 10 points, to take a 48-37 lead with 10 and a half to play. A Layup by LMU's Camille Buckley made the score 50-41, but over the last 9 minutes LMU would score only one more time, as the Bruins cruised to a 17-2 finish, and a final score of 67-43.
Darxia Morris and Markel Walker were the only Bruins in double digits, and both tied for a game high 15 points. Markel's stat line was particularly impressive, with 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 steals as well. In the absence of Dixon, Christina Nzekwe saw her playing time increase, and in addition to her normal, solid defense, she went a perfect 3-3 from the field and 2-2 from the court for 8 points along with 8 rebounds, a very good stat line for her. Really, the only disappointing performances tonight game from the point guards, as Doreena Campbell had an uncharacteristic night with 2 points and 5 fouls, while Mariah Williams in only 7 minutes took only 1 shot, and had 0 assists to 1 turnover. I really like Mariah and was hoping to see some solid development from her in her second season, but so far that has not been apparent, which makes me wonder if it's partially a confidence issue, getting very little playing time, especially non-garbage time.
The box score was almost entirely Bruin domination in every statistical comparison, and if the Bruins had just shot better, we would probably be discussing a 40 point win. LMU had a board titled "Hustle Points" which listed each team's rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. On that board, UCLA "outscored" LMU in hustle points, 83 to 42. LMU had 5 blocks to only 3 for UCLA, and shot 7-14 from 3 compared to only 2-5 for UCLA, but that's where the good news ended for the Lions. UCLA outrebounded LMU 41-25, giving UCLA as many Offensive rebounds as LMU had in total. UCLA forced 23 turnovers with 16 steals, while committing a season low 10 turnovers, and played great teamball with 23 assits on 28 made baskets. Despite UCLA's struggles shooting at times, UCLA finished off shooting 44% for the game to only 37% for LMU. UCLA dominated the paint for 32 points to 12 for LMU, had a 21-2 advantage on 2nd chance points, 28-8 in bench points, and 28-9 in points off turnovers.
Around the Pac-10, USC has been difficult to figure out. First they beat #18 Georgia, before falling to Princeton at home, and then go on the road and lose at #4 Xavier by only 3. Despite being competitive and having 2 top-25 victories, they are only 4-3 on the year, with 2 loses against top 10 teams, both on the road. #2 Stanford continues to dominate, defeating South Carolina by almost 40 before defeating #19 Texas. UCLA now improves to 6-0 on the season. Sunday features a rare double header game, as the Womens team takes on Montana St at 1pm before the mens play at 7pm. If you are going to the mens game and haven't checked out this team yet, please, please do so. They both need, and DESERVE more fan support at their games, and you can go see them, then get dinner in westwood before returning for the mens game that night. Hopefully Dixon will be ready to go by then.