#15 UCLA Women's Basketball (14-5, 6-2)
Opponent: Colorado (5-14, 0-8)
When: 6:00 PM PST, Friday, January 29, 2016
Where: Coors Events Center, Boulder, CO
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Colorado Live Stream
Live Stats: None
Road games are never easy, but they're particularly challenging when they involve playing at altitude. That's why tonight's game against the Buffaloes in Boulder will likely be a lot more difficult than Colorado's record (5-14, 0-8) suggests.
Frankly, Colorado is a bad team. In spite of holding one of the biggest home court advantages in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes have lost all four of their conference home games. The average margin of defeat in those games is over 9 points/game. At this point, Colorado's best chance of winning a home game this season may rest on an opponent mentally chalking up a win before tip-off.
That's why it's critical that the Bruins don't look ahead to Sunday when they play Utah. UCLA is currently tied for third place with Washington, just one game behind Oregon State and two games behind Arizona State. With OSU and ASU meeting this weekend, the Bruins have a golden opportunity to gain on at least one of the teams ahead of them. And with Washington in the Bay Area tonight to play fifth place Stanford, a win by the Bruins tonight could very well allow them to seize sole possession of third place. In other words, there's a lot at stake for UCLA today, so the Bruins really can't afford a lapse in concentration.
If you've been following UCLA Women's Basketball this season, you'll know that the Bruins earned a big win when they beat Stanford 56-36 last weekend. As has often been the case this season when the Bruins play well, defense was the key to UCLA's victory.
Monique Billings led UCLA in scoring and rebounding with 12 points and 7 boards. Her fantastic athleticism and length are a very difficult matchup for most Pac-12 opponents. Nirra Fields turned in another mature performance with 11 points and 6 rebounds, and Jordin Canada stuffed the stat sheet as usual with 10 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists. Kari Korver was the fourth Bruin to tally double-digit points; she scored 11 on 4-5 shooting, including 3-4 from beyond the arc.
UCLA did the most damage on the defensive end, however. The Bruins held Stanford to 20.9% from the field and forced 17 turnovers.
If the Bruins can come anywhere near producing that kind of defensive intensity tonight, they can put the Buffaloes away early. However, one of the few things that Colorado does well is shooting three-pointers. If UCLA does a good job of closing out on perimeter shooters, the Buffaloes best weapon will be blunted. Moreover, since the Buffs are turnover prone, UCLA should thrive if it extends its defense and forces tempo.
After tonight's game, the Bruins will be at the halfway point of the Pac-12 season. A win against the Buffaloes will help separate UCLA from the middle of the pack, while a loss will make it very difficult to catch OSU and ASU in the conference title race. The Buffs are the worst team in the Pac-12, but considering the implications of tonight's game, the Bruins have to be sure they don't fall into the trap of looking past Colorado.