On Saturday the womens basketball team concluded their final road trip of the season when they took on the third place Arizona St. Sun Devils. The desert trip had potential for a trap game, as both of the Arizona schools have been playing well, and both schools coming into the weekend had only suffered 2 losses at home all season, one of which came at the hands of Stanford. UCLA had to fight it's way to a 74-70 victory over Arizona on Thursday while ASU crushed USC, leading to what in my opinion would be UCLA's toughest pac-10 road game this season to a team not named Stanford. To add to the potential for a trap game, UCLA was playing ASU on senior night which would surely fire up the ASU team.
The game was close in the first half before the Bruins managed to pull away from the Sun Devils in the 2nd half. A common theme with this Bruin team when they are struggling is that they are shooting well, rebounding well, but turning the ball over too much. The score was only 24-21 at halftime, because while UCLA had a 22-13 rebounding advantage and were outshooting ASU 42% to 32%, UCLA turnovers were keeping ASU in the game.
While UCLA continued to have some problems with turnovers in the second half, UCLA's defense would recover and not allow ASU to convert our mistakes into points. With the game tied at 28, a 17-0 Bruin run that lasted just under 5 minutes sealed ASU's fate as UCLA jumped out to a 45-28 lead with 12 minutes left, and from there UCLA cruised to a 61-45 victory. UCLA shot an improved 45% in the second half to a limited 29% for the Sun Devils.
Looking at the box score there are 3 things that jump out at you as positive and negative.
Getting the negative out of the way first, UCLA will get burned sometime in the future if they continue to shoot 63% from the freethrow line (Darxia Morris was 6 for 6, meaning the rest of the team shot below 50%). UCLA continues to turn the ball over too much, which tends to be in my opinion a case more of over-aggressiveness than pure sloppiness or carelessness, but none the less needs to be cleared up, as the Bruins had 21 turnovers to 19 from ASU. Markel Walker was the worst culprit with 7 turnovers, which usually are a case of her trying to feed the post too hard in risk situations. Finally, bench production was low with the Bruin bench being outscored 24-7. In reality low bench scoring has been an issue all season which really might not be a concern for this year's team, but could be for the future of the team. Getting to the positives, UCLA 43% for the game while holding ASU to just 30%, something i'm sure Nikki Caldwell will be very pleased about. Despite having a taller and lengthier team, ASU was outrebounded 45-30 by UCLA, and UCLA held a decisive advantage in the paint, with 34 points to just 14 points from ASU.
3 Bruins had double digit days today. Leading the Bruins was Jasmine Dixon who had a great day with team highs in points (17) and rebounds (13), though had 6 turnovers. Atonye Nyingifa, who was the major force during UCLA's 17-0 run, had 15 points and 7 rebounds, and Darxia Morris had 13 points and 4 assists against no turnovers.
With the win today, UCLA improves to 24-3, 14-2, while ASU drops to 17-9, 9-7. Yes, UCLA has a whopping 5 game lead over third place in conference. Nikki Caldwell once again has made Bruin history. Her sweep of the Arizona schools on the road means UCLA has won 12 road games this season, and new UCLA record. UCLA will close out the season at home this week against the Washington Schools. Saturday will be senior day for Doreena Campbell, Christina Nzekwe, Darxia Morris, and Nina Earl, as well as the last basketball game played in the old Pauley, so think about coming out for it.