Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
UCLA closed out the Pac-10 season hosting an Arizona team that is very young and does not have a lot of depth, but has 2 very talented players on their roster. The game took on important meaning as it was senior day for Moniquee Alexander, Allison Taka, and Erica Tukiainen. It was definitely an emotional day for the seniors, as during pregame roll call and the senior ceremony, I could see them tearing up, and you could just tell this game meant a lot to the seniors. As i had predicted, Nikki had all of the seniors start, having Allison and Moniquee start in place of Markel and Darxia.
The game started off rough for the Bruins. Arizona took a quick 6-0 lead with some adept outside shooting. UCLA calmed down and with Markel and Darxia back in the game, they settled down. UCLA managed to get 2 quick fouls on Arizona's center Ify Ibekwe, but still could not take the lead. UCLA tied the game at 11 before Arizona went on a 7-0 run to take a 7 point lead. UCLA would chip away and get within 1 possession before Arizona would push it back up. Arizona took their largest lead of the game at 29-21 with 5:45 left in half, but the Bruins would make a run. A 12-2 run for UCLA capped by a layup by Jasmine Dixon gave UCLA it's first lead at 33-31, and a time out by Arizona brought the crowd of over 2000 to it's feet in loud support of the team. UCLA closed out the first half with a 37-33 lead.
|From WBB vs. UofA (Senior Day)|
In the second half, UCLA came out strong, but having Ify Ibekwe back on the floor was a bonus for the wildcats. UCLA held around an 8 point lead until finally taking a double digit lead, 52-42 with 8:42 remaining.
UCLA actually pushed their lead as high as 12 before Arizona made one final push. Arizona slowly crept back into the game thanks to getting to the line and UCLA missing a few freethrows. A basket by Davellyn Whyte at 3:46 cut UCLA's lead to 58-55. Arizona got no closer as UCLA started hitting freethrows, including Erica Tukiainen going 6-6 in the last minute. Pictures as always wonderfully presented by B D.
The reason Arizona stayed in the game was their ability to rebound on the offensive glass. Even though UCLA outrebounded Arizona 42-41 and had 18 offensive boards for themselves, Arizona was also able to get 18 offensive boards much to the displeasure of Nikki. In fact, with UCLA holding around a 7 point lead with about 8 minutes left, Arizona got 3-4 offensive rebounds on the same possession before finally scoring. Nikki immediately benched both Jasmine and Markel, putting in Moniquee and Christina Nzekwe, which isn't a very common line up, to send a message to Jasmine and Markel that they need to rebound.
It's funny that usually UCLA's biggest problem is turnovers, and that today UCLA had only 11 which is exactly what Nikki wants to see in every game, but that UCLA today had a poor shooting day compared to how they normally shoot. UCLA shot only 39% on the day, but Arizona was held to just 34%. UCLA definitely made up for that at the line, shooting 18-23 including 6-6 by Erica Tukiainen and 7-7 by Markel Walker. Glad to see Markel's freethrow shooting vastly improved from where it was earlier in the season.
Three Bruins scored in double digits. It is very appropriate that on senior day, Erica Tukiainen lead the team with 20 points (including hitting all 4 of the team's 3-pointers), along with 17 for Jasmine Dixon who was 1 rebound short of a double double, and 13 for Markel Walker.
After the game was over, the 3 seniors came over to the band. There has always been a strong bond between the band and the womens team, but the last 2 years ever since Nikki arrived the bond has been even stronger with the team having pizza socials with the band once a season, and some of them coming to support band IM sports and such, so the band have been fanatical supporters of this team and these seniors. They made their way through the entire band high-fiveing everyone, which took a while but was much appreciated. Today marked my and all of the band seniors last game in Pauley performing (unless there is gymnastics or mens volleyball playoffs), so it was a nice way to go out.
|From WBB vs. UofA (Senior Day)|
With the win, UCLA improves to 22-7 (15-3), featuring an 8 game winning streak (the best since 1998-9), and 12 of the last 13. UCLA's 15 conference victories ties UCLA's best conference record, the 22 victories being 5th most in school history, and UCLA finished 8-1 at home in conference, and the 2nd half of conference 8-1 as well, the best ever in UCLA history. UCLA now heads over to the Galen center this week for the Womens Pac-10 Tournament as the #2 seed, taking on the winner of the 7/10 game Friday night at 7:15pm. When the brackets get released, i'll try my best to do a pac-10 wrap up and a conference tournament prediction post.