#9 UCLA Women's Basketball (1-1, 0-0)
Opponent: Southern University (1-1, 0-0)
When: 7:00 PM PST, Friday, November 18, 2016
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
At the start of the week, #9 UCLA (1-1) got outmuscled by #2 Baylor, 84-70. Baylor took advantage of its significant size advantage inside, battering the Bruins to score 52 points in the paint, and out-rebounding UCLA by a more than 2-1 margin (52-25). Although UCLA took a seven point lead into halftime, the Bears pounded the ball inside after the break and held the Bruins to just 22 second half points.
Baylor's 6'7" Kalani Brown had her way against UCLA's relatively small lineup. For reasons that aren't clear, Coach Close opted to use a four guard lineup for much of the game, with Kari Korver, Jordin Canada, Kelli Hayes and Nicole Kornet flanking forward Monique Billings. Meanwhile, forwards Ashley Hearn, Paulina Hersler, and Ally Rosenblum totaled just 19 minutes off the bench. Needless to say, Coach Close's failure to matchup with the Bears proved costly.
Fortunately for the Bruins, today's opponent--the Southern University Jaguars (1-1)--bear no resemblance to the team that overpowered UCLA on Monday. The Jaguars' tallest player is 6'2" freshman center Debbie Hudson, and she's a sparingly-used sub. Therefore, even if Coach Close chooses to continue with what appears to be her favored four guard lineup, the Bruins will have a size advantage against Southern.
The Jaguars began their 2016-17 campaign with a 68-53 win over Spring Hill College. Southern followed that win with a 70-55 loss to Michigan State; the Spartans are currently sitting just outside the top-25 in this week's AP poll.
Southern relies on senior guards Cortnei Purnell and Miaya Crowder for a big chunk of its scoring and rebounding. The Bruins' scoring load is a bit more balanced with three players (Canada, Billings and Kornet) averaging more than 12 points per game. However, the Bruins are getting relatively few rebounds from their trio of big guards, and that's a sign of potential trouble when UCLA faces bigger teams.
The Bruins have one more home game before they head to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge next week. Let's hope that Coach Close uses tonight's game against Southern and Sunday's game against Cal Poly to experiment with bigger lineups and give UCLA's young frontcourt players some valuable experience.