Coach Nikki Caldwell's No. 22(25-8), winners of 11 of the last 12 games, will play top-seeded Nebraska (31-1) tonight at 8:30 p.m. CT/6:30 PT in the second round game. The game is going to be televised on ESPN2/ESPNU. We should have an open thread up at the time to track the action.
Bruins are going to be huge underdogs against a Cornerhusker squad, which didn't lose a game in the Big-12 conference. They are led by Kelsey Griffin, one of four Naismith Trophy finalists and Coach Coni Yori who was just honored as national coach of the year. Yet the Bruins don't sound too intimidated considering they have already played powerhouse programs such as Stanford (three times) and Tennessee this season:
"We've played Stanford three times, and they're the No. 2 team," Dixon said of the Bruins, who also played Tennessee earlier this year. "Playing such a high seed isn't a shock to us. We just have to play the basketball we're capable of playing."
For the Bruins to have a shot tonight they will have to start strong.
From the LA Times:
[U]CLA has to get off to a better start. In the each of the two lopsided losses to the Cardinal, the Bruins dug double-digit holes in the first half and weren't able to recover.
Even in Sunday's first-round victory over ninth-seeded North Carolina State, UCLA found itself down nine points with less than four minutes to play before halftime. The Bruins were able to use their trapping defense to get back in the lead and surge ahead, but that isn't as easy against good teams.
"The main lesson that I hope they have learned is that you have to bring it for 40 minutes against quality teams who know how to score the basketball and disrupt you defensively," UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell said.
On the other side the Huskers are not taking the Bruins lightly.Nebraska's coach Yori has apparently identified 13 or 14 different schemes UCLA uses on defense:
Yori said her staff has identified 13 or 14 different schemes UCLA uses, from standard half-court man to man to a sneaky, speedy backcourt trap the Bruins use with the goal of putting their opponent in a panic.
"We have not seen that style for any length of time," Yori said.
When asked about variations in her defensive schemes Caldwell's comments were pretty funny:
"Sometimes I don't recognize what we're in, but as long as they are putting that second effort there," coach Nikki Caldwell said, joking about the "moan" defense she occasionally has seen from her players with some in man and the rest in zone.
Caldwell has used the different defenses to take advantage of skill sets, but also to keep her team sharp.
"I like being able to change up. I think it's fun for them. They don't get bored," she said
In all seriousness though as mentioned above for the Bruins to have a legit shot in winning this game they will have to come out with defensive ferocity early. I only got to watch the first 10-15 mins of the game against NC State before the local coverage here cut away to Oklahoma-South Dakota State. It was clear though that our ladies were a little jittery (which is somewhat understandable about because none of them had played in a tourney game before). Hopefully that will not be the case tonight.
It has been an awesome season for Coach Caldwell in her second year in Westwood. The team's 25 wins are most since 1999 and the fourth-most in school history. Our 15-3 record during the Pac-10 season equaled our previous best conference mark. By all accounts the record of discernible progress in Coach Caldwell's second season is crystal clear. So she and her team should not feel any sense of pressure tonight and just let it lose for 40 minutes against the Huskers.
It is going to be an uphill challenged against another extremely well coached team. Hopefully the energy, athleticism and defensive ferocity we have seen from our squad will give us a shot. For more on tonight's game notes check out the official site. See you guys in the game thread.