Opponent: Southern Cal (12-0, 0-0)
When: 7:00 PM PST, Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio | AM 1150
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
UCLA closed out the nonconference portion of its schedule on Monday with a hard fought 70-56 win against UC Riverside. The victory improved UCLA's record to 8-3 and gives the Bruins some much-needed momentum as they embark on what promises to be a very challenging Pac-12 season. The 21st-ranked Bruins (8-3, 0-0) are one of five Pac-12 teams currently in the top-25 of the AP Poll. Tonight's opponent--the Trojans (12-0, 0-0)--are ranked 26th.
Southern Cal has an impressive record at the moment, but the Trojans perfect start to the season is as much a reflection of their soft nonconference schedule as it is of their talent. The Bruins and the Trojans have one opponent in common--UC Irvine. The Bruins beat the Anteaters 83-48 while the Trojans won by a narrower 75-56 margin. USC's win over the Anteaters was on Monday, so like the Bruins, the Trojans are playing with just one day of rest.
UCLA's Nirra Fields should be back for tonight's contest after sitting out Monday's game for an unspecified violation of team rules. Fields is a dynamic player--one of the Pac-12's best--who has a big impact on both ends of the court. The Bruins will need her tonight.
The key to beating the Trojans is keeping their forwards in check. Sophomore Kristen Simon (6'1") isn't tall, but she's strong and aggressive. Simon leads the Trojans in scoring(13.5 points/game) and rebounding (8.4 boards/game). The other forward, 6'4" Temi Fagbenle, is a Harvard graduate with a degree in anthropology. (One can only wonder what led her to USC.) She's averaging 12.6 points/game and 7.6 rebounds/game, and more importantly, is a good defender. She will undoubtedly be given the task of trying to shut down Monique Billings. Good luck with that.
If the Bruins are going to contend for the Pac-12 title this season--as they should, given the wealth of talent on the roster--they will need to knock off teams of USC's caliber. The Trojans will surely make a game of it, but this is game that UCLA must win to keep pace with Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona State, and California.
Go BRUINS! Beat $C!