#14 UCLA Women's Basketball (16-5, 8-2)
Opponent: #8 Arizona State (18-4, 9-1)
When: 5:00 PM PST, Friday, February 5, 2016
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, AZ
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stats: ASU StatBroadcast
With their comeback victory over Utah on Sunday, the Bruins proved a couple of things. First, the Bruins demonstrated that they can win without Jordin Canada, even in a tricky road game. Second,senior Nirra Fields showed that she is good enough to carry the team when it's struggling.
Fields dominated the fourth quarter, scoring 17 of UCLA's 26 points to fuel the surge that brought the Bruins back from an 8 point deficit at the end of the third quarter. As fun as it was to watch, it also highlighted the problem that UCLA faces without Jordin Canada: the Bruins don't have a true backup point guard, and without Canada on the floor, the offense tends to be one-dimensional.
Against a decent Utah team, strong defense and a one-dimensional offense was (barely) enough. Against the 8th-ranked Sun Devils, it definitely won't be enough.
Canada missed Sunday's game with an ankle injury, but was reportedly day-to-day at that time. Assuming that report was accurate, she should be ready to go this evening, but she may be limited. Of course, Coach Close will have to base her decision on the long-term best interests of Canada and the team.
Arizona State was flying high in the Pac-12 until it ran into Oregon State on Monday. The Sun Devils left Corvallis on the wrong side of a 67-44 thrashing, which leaves first place ASU just one game in front of third place UCLA. There's a lot at stake for both teams tonight.
Like UCLA, Arizona State is a defensive-minded team, but unlike the Bruins, the Sun Devils don't rely on their defense to create scoring opportunities. ASU likes to grind on offense, The Sun Devils average just a little over 63 points per game, while holding opponents to just over 52 points per game. They aren't a particularly big team or fast team, but they play hard-nosed, disciplined basketball.
ASU junior forward Sophie Brunner is the only Sun Devil to average more than 10 points/game. Although she's not a prolific scorer, she's a very efficient scorer, shooting 52% from the field. Junior center Quinn Dornstauder (6'4") could also prove to be a problem for the Bruins. UCLA has had trouble at times guarding true centers, and ASU has the patience and discipline on offense to exploit an opponent's weakness.
The Sun Devils' guards are particularly good defensively, especially against teams that rely on perimeter offense. The Bruins will have to diversify their offense tonight to knock off Arizona State--the Sun Devils are simply too good to be beaten by a one-dimensional offense. If Jordin Canada is available tonight, the Bruins should have the balanced offense they'll need to earn a big win.