#14 UCLA Women's Basketball (16-6, 8-3)
Opponent: Arizona (11-12, 2-9)
When: 12:00 PM PST, Sunday, February 7, 2016
Where: McKale Center, Tucson, AZ
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Video: Arizona Live Stream
Live Stats: Arizona StatBroadcast
If the Bruins are going to stay in contention for the Pac-12 title, this afternoon's contest against the Wildcats is a must-win game. After taking a tough loss against the Sun Devils on Friday, UCLA (16-6, 8-3) is now in fourth place in the Pac-12, two games behind Arizona State and Oregon State, and half a game behind Stanford. It's the number of teams that the Bruins are chasing rather than the number of games out of first that makes today's matchup with Arizona so crucial to UCLA's title hopes.
The Bruins have only themselves to blame for this predicament. After an impressive comeback from as much as 17 points down, UCLA held a narrow fourth quarter lead against the Sun Devils, but couldn't keep pace in the final minutes. A long scoring drought bridging the first and second quarters put the Bruins in a deep hole, and on the road against a top-10 team, it's incredibly difficult to recover. Coach Close's team deserves credit for fighting back, but they also deserve criticism for another sluggish start.
Once again the Bruins were punished for poor finishing. But what ultimately hurt UCLA the most was its failure to control the boards: the Sun Devils out-rebounded the Bruins 43-30, and considering the fact that ASU isn't a particularly tall team, Coach Close needs to emphasize the importance of limiting opponents to a single shot per possession.
If the Bruins are going to rebound today, they'll need to rebound better than they did against ASU, especially since Arizona out rebounded USC by 14 in a losing effort on Friday.
Even though the Wildcats (11-12, 2-9) aren't a good team, they are a much better team in the McKale Center. Arizona has a decent 8-4 record at home, however six of those wins are against a generally unimpressive list of nonconference opponents.
Arizona's best player is 6'1" junior forward LaBrittney Jones. She's a volume shooter without the size to be a scoring threat in the post and without the range to be a threat from the perimeter. 5'6" junior guard is the only other Wildcat averaging more than 10 points/game, and like Jones, she's not particularly efficient from the perimeter. Redshirt freshman guard Taryn Griffey (5'7") is the Wildcats' best shooter, but she is been playing under 20 minutes/game on average.
In addition to being the lowest scoring team in the Pac-12, Arizona is second in the conference in turnovers, and sports a conference-worst 0.74 assist-to-turnover margin. The Wildcats' generosity plays to the Bruins' strength--uptempo, transition basketball. If UCLA can do a better job of controlling the boards and takes advantage of Arizona's poor ball handling, the Bruins should be able to run away with a much-needed victory today.