#17 UCLA Women's Basketball (11-5, 3-2)
Opponent: Washington State (12-5, 3-3)
When: 12:00 PM PST, Sunday, January 17, 2016
Where: Beasley Coliseum, Pullman, WA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: WSU StatBroadcast
UCLA Women's Basketball is frighteningly close to following the road trip blueprint of Steve Alford's Bruins. Within the last week, UCLA has lost to both USC and Washington on the road, and now Washington State threatens to drop the Bruins' Pac-12 road record to 0-3. It's a scenario that isn't conducive to challenging for the conference title.
Of course USC and Washington are decent teams, and it's difficult to win road games in the Pac-12, but if you break down the Bruins' last two performances, it's undeniable that Coach Close's team has simply not been playing well. Poor shooting has been compounded by poor shot selection, and the Bruins have stopped attacking the basket and drawing fouls.
Against Washington on Friday night, UCLA's offense picked up where it left off against the Trojans: 30.7% shooting from the field, 23.1% on three-pointers, and 57.1% on free throws. The Bruins' poor long-range shooting didn't keep them from chucking up threes, though--UCLA attempted 26 threes while only earning seven free throws. (By contrast, the Huskies had 28 free throw attempts.)
In addition to being too passive offensively, UCLA has done a poor job of sharing the ball in the last two games. Against Washington, UCLA had just 9 assists while committing 16 turnovers, and UCLA's starting backcourt players took three times as many shots as its starting frontcourt players. Needless to say, those aren't healthy balances.
As their record indicates, the Cougars aren't pushovers. They're a good home team, and they're coming off a double-digit win against Southern Cal in which they out-muscled and out-hustled the Trojans.
A simple cure for what ails the Bruins is better shooting, but that's the equivalent of waiting for good things to happen. UCLA needs to make good things happen, and that means playing smarter and more aggressively. It's a lesson that the Bruins need to learn very soon or their chance of contending for the Pac-12 title will be lost before the midpoint of the conference season.