Opponent: Sacramento State (2-5)
When: 7:05 PM PST, Friday, December 18, 2015
Where: The Nest, Sacramento, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Live Stats: Sacramento State StatBroadcast
On Wednesday, the Bruins thumped UC Irvine 83-48. We may see more of the same tonight when #19 UCLA (6-2) visits Sacramento to play the Hornets (2-5).
In my preview of the UCLA-UCI game, I emphasized the importance of using the contest as an opportunity to give increased court time to some of Coach Close's subs. For the most part, Coach Close accomplished that goal. Paulina Hersler and Kelli Hayes played 23 and 24 minutes, respectively. Lajahna Drummer played 13 minutes as she continues to work her way back from injury. Only freshman Ashley Hearn (13 minutes) didn't get the extended playing time that she needs as she still struggles to adapt to collegiate basketball.
In spite of UCLA's 35 point blowout of the Anteaters, the Bruins are still playing sloppy basketball. UCLA added another 17 turnovers to its season total on Wednesday. While it's true that the Bruins are trying to force pace, making good decisions with the ball is still critical.
On the other hand, UCLA's defense was impressive on Wednesday. The Bruins forced 19 turnovers, tallied 15 steals, and held the Anteaters to just 28.1% from the field.
The Sacramento State Hornets are likely to be somewhat more competitive than the Anteaters. The Hornets are especially tough at home, winning 24 of their last 30 games in The Nest. The Hornets are a high-scoring team, and rely heavily on their three-point shooting. The Bruins have not been particularly good at defending against perimeter shooters so far this season, so the Hornets will undoubtedly put up more points than the Anteaters.
However, the Hornets lost by 18 points to #17 California less than two weeks ago, and they have losses against New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Francisco, and Villanova as well. Sacramento State has given up an average of 91 points/game in its five losses, and it's averaging more turnovers than assists per game this season, which plays to the strength of the Bruins.
Unfortunately, the Hornets may keep the game close enough long enough to deny Coach Close the comfort of giving extended playing time to her bench players tonight. This will be an ideal game for Lajahna Drummer to continue her comeback from injury, though; she's a good transition defender and a terrific rebounder. Kelli Hayes is a strong defender too, so she may see additional playing time as well.
This is yet another game that the Bruins have to win to keep their momentum building as they head into Pac-12 play after Christmas. It should be a fun game to watch.