|From 20101205WBB vs MTSt|
UCLA returned to Pauley this afternoon to take on a 2-6 Montana St. team, that honestly is probably the easiest competition along with UCSB that UCLA would face in the pre-conference season. Jasmine Dixon once again did not suit up to play. It is very clear that UCLA is a much different team without Jasmine on the court, and while Nikki and UCLA can get by without her playing against teams like LMU and Montana St, hopefully she will be ready to get going again soon as we need her if the team is going to be at its full potential. With Jasmine out, and playing possibly our easiest game of the season, Nikki decided to get the freshmen extended playing time, and instead of waiting until garbage time like normal, the freshmen played throughout the game, picking up valuable close-game experience. Their freshman mistakes to go along with a team that seemed to be unfocused on the offensive end led to UCLA being its own worst enemy, as the Bruin defense held their end of the bargain on the day, only to not get the offensive output to put away a overly matched team.
|From 20101205WBB vs MTSt|
The game started off well enough. UCLA jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, and UCLA's pressure defense was so smothering that MSU took almost 4 minutes to even attempt a shot. UCLA's offense began to go stagnant, as it seemed many of their shots came up short, and midway through the first half, the score was just UCLA 13 MSU 9. The second portion of the first half saw even less scoring, as UCLA went into half up 24-14. It is unfortunate that UCLA's ugly offensive performance overshadowed a great defensive half for the Bruins. Whether it was an off game, finals coming up, Jasmine being gone, there seemed to be a spark missing from the offense. MSU shot just 24% for the half, though UCLA's 33% wasn't much better.
UCLA opened up the 2nd half with some better offense while the defensive intensity remained high, and an 8-0 run gave UCLA a 32-14 lead. From this point, UCLA's offense quieted down again, and with the freshmen playing extensive minutes, UCLA danced around a 10 point lead for most of the half, never quite pulling away, but never quite in danger. That is, UCLA was never in danger until a 7-0 run by MSU cut the UCLA lead to 46-40 with just over 4 minutes left. Still, Nikki left the freshmen in the game, and back to back lay-ups gave UCLA a 50-40 lead with 3 minutes left. Those would be UCLA's last baskets of the game, as the remainder of the game was an exercise in futility at the freethrow line. At that point, MSU had only 4 team fouls, and started intentionally fouling UCLA on every possession, and UCLA failed to put the dagger in the coffin going 5-15 from the line in the half, causing the game to be interesting until the final score of 54-44.
|From 20101205WBB vs MTSt|
After the game, Nikki in her post game radio interview discussed the fact that she feels the team is currently missing an identity. She thinks that when the team wants to be on, they are on top of their game, but that they go through too long of intensity lapses. Personally their intensity on the defensive end and on the glass isn't the issue, but limiting turnovers and finishing around the basket most definitely are. Nikki was pleased about the undefeated start, but knows that the team must get better before the conference season starts, and talked about how if they want fans to come to the game, she knows that the team needs to earn it and put on a performance that the fans will want to see, which at least offensively they did not deliver today. She did praise the efforts of Atonye Nyingifa and Christina Nzekwe for their hustle around the rim, as both have had a very good weekend. Pictures of the game provided by B D. I'm having some technical difficulties with the slideshow, which will hopefully appear below when i figure it out.
The Bruins had only 2 players in double digits. Rebekah Gardner had a very good game with 14 points on 6-9 shooting, while Atonye Nyingifa added 11 and 8 boards. The rest of the team really struggled from the field, and with Jasmine Dixon out, and Doreena, Darxia, and Markel all struggling on the same day, the effects were noticeable on the scoreboard. Doreena probably wishes she could forget this weekend, as following a 2 point 5 foul performance against LMU, she had 6 points on 2-9 shooting, with 6 turnovers against 3 assists. Doreena is a 2 time All-Pac 10 player, and is someone who has earned the right to be given the benefit of the doubt that this was an off weekend, but her performance really needs to pick up, as a leader of this team. Of the Freshmen, Corinne Costa really stood out, who was expected to be a post project, and while she may still be offensively, she had 8 boards and both of our teams' blocks on the day.
Looking at the box score, UCLA shot a surprising 41% for the game, but 23 turnovers and a dreadful 8-21 performance from the freethrow line left WAY too many points off the board that could have been the difference between the score we see and a potential blowout. UCLA's defense did their job, holding MS to 30% shooting, with improved perimeter defense allowing just 29% from 3. UCLA won the battle of the baords 43-29, and forced 23 turnovers of their own.
Hopefully UCLA will be able to put this game behind them as nothing more than an aberation, finish finals, get Jasmine back on the court and healthy, and get the offense back on track going into the upcoming games. The Daily Bruin had an interesting story about how Nikki is trying to emphasize the need to take better care of the ball, but having a cart with 12 balls rolled out during practice, and everytime the team turns the ball over, a ball is removed from the cart, and when no balls remain, the team runs sprints. The last two games saw a dramatic reduction in turnovers before today's game, so hopefully Nikki can continue to work on reducing those. UCLA (7-0) will face 3 straight road games now, starting off Saint Mary's next sunday.