Though the women's basketball team under Coach Close has had some success this year, and has parlayed that success into a top-15 ranking, UCLA has been unable to close the gap between themselves and the "elite" teams in the country. Coming into tonight's Pac-12 tourney game, it didn't seem like a lot would change. UCLA was missing 4 players due to injury, and had two others playing hurt. Meanwhile, the Bears hadn't lost since they played Stanford early in the conference slate. I was hoping for a respectable performance, with maybe an outside shot at a victory.
Clearly, the seniors had other ideas, and they led the team's best effort this season in taking out the #5 Bears 70-58. And the game was never really that close - that 12 point margin was due to UCLA killing clock thanks to a 20 point lead in the last 3 minutes.
Although she prefers playing man-to-man D, Coach Close started out the game in a 2-3 zone to slow the Bears' strong interior play. And in sticking with that zone, UCLA controlled the entire first half to the tune of a 35-14 halftime advantage. The Bears shot under 20% from the field in the first half, whereas the lady Bruins shot 55% and had a number of open layups and short jump shots. The shot chart from the first half was an absolute thing of beauty. The second half wasn't quite as good, but the didn't need to be perfect to pull it off.
All the credit goes to the seniors for this game. Specifically, Markel Walker, Jasmine Dixon, and Alyssia Brewer combined for 52 points, 24 boards, and a great overall turnaround from their 28 point loss to Cal less than a month ago.
They will more than likely get the Cardinal in tomorrow night's game. That's going to be another tall order, but just maybe they can get one more W and lock up a 3 seed for the tournament, assuming they didn't already do that tonight.
Congrats to Coach Close and the ladies on a gritty victory - and hopefully, one more tomorrow.