#15 UCLA Women's Basketball (11-3, 3-0)
Opponent: Southern California (13-2, 1-2)
When: 6:00 PM PST, Sunday, January 10, 2016
Where: Galen Center, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio | AM 1150
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: GameTracker
In an odd bit of scheduling by the Pac-12, the Bruins will conclude their regular season matchup with Southern Cal today in just the second week of the conference season. It was only 11 days ago that UCLA (11-3, 3-0) opened its Pac-12 season with a 78-73 win over its crosstown rival. That was the first loss of 2015-16 for the Trojans; since then, USC (13-2, 1-2) split its home games against the Oregon schools, with a 57-49 loss to Oregon State followed by a 75-67 victory over Oregon.
The Bruins have been off for nearly a week since their 71-51 upset of #11 Oregon State. It was a surprising result for the Bruins, not because they won, but because of the margin of victory. Moreover, UCLA managed to rout the Beavers without significant scoring from its two frontcourt starters, Monique Billings (5 points) and Kacy Swain (4 points).
Jordin Canada was fantastic in just 28 minutes of action. She led the Bruins with 24 points on 9-13 shooting (4-4 on three-pointers), and added 5 assists and a pair of steals.Nirra Fields added 10 points, 5 boards and 4 steals, and Kari Korver contributed 12 points, including a trio of threes.
Lajahna Drummer provided a real spark off the bench with 8 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes.
The Bruins have been at their best this season when they crank up the defensive pressure. Against the Beavers, the result was 26 turnovers and a 37.7 field goal percentage for the visitors, and 23 points off turnovers for the Bruins.
Although the Bruins defeated the Trojans in their first meeting, it wasn't easy. Southern Cal was up by seven points midway through the first quarter, and although UCLA finished the opening quarter with a three point lead, the Bruins had trouble separating from the Trojans. In fact, the Bruins were up by only two heading into the fourth even though they'd enjoyed a 10 point lead four minutes earlier.
As I wrote in my preview of the first meeting, the key to beating the Trojans is keeping their forwards in check. The Bruins failed in that respect in game 1, as both Kristen Simon (11 points, 14 rebounds) and Temi Fagbenle (23 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles. UCLA will have to do a better job of shutting down that pair tonight, especially since the Trojans don't have a lot of depth beyond their starting five.
Although Swain and Billings struggled to contain USC's forwards, Billings produced a strong performance of her own with 23 points and 12 boards. Along with Billings, Jordin Canada and Nirra Fields accounted for 64 of UCLA's 78 points. Swain and Kari Korver will have to be more productive this time for the Bruins to beat Southern Cal on its home court.
A win tonight will keep the Bruins in first place in the Pac-12 standings. At the moment, UCLA and Arizona State are tied with 3-0 marks, one full game ahead of Stanford, Oregon State and Utah. With a tricky road trip to Washington up next, and difficult games against #9 Stanford and #21 California the following week, the Bruins really need to wrap up another victory tonight if they are going to make a strong challenge for the Pac-12 title in 2016.
Coach Close has the Bruins playing great basketball right now. First place in the Pac-12 is ours with a victory tonight.
Go BRUINS! BeatSC!