NCAA Tournament Second Round Game
#3 UCLA Women's Basketball (25-8, 14-4)
Opponent: #6 South Florida (24-9, 14-4)
When: 6:00 PM PST, Monday, March 21, 2016
Where: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA
Audio: Bruin Live Audio
Although the Bruins didn't play particularly well in their opening round game against Hawai'i, they cruised to a fairly comfortable 66-50 win.
The Bruins' problems against Hawai'i weren't on the defensive end. As we've come to expect from this team, UCLA's defensive effort was superb, limiting the Rainbow Wahine to 20% from the field while forcing 17 turnovers. The Bruins problems came when they had the ball in their hands. Whether it was due to nervousness or, more likely, trying to play to fast, the Bruins were sloppy when they had the ball, and they didn't look sharp in their half court offense.
Fortunately, senior Nirra Fields overcame first half foul trouble to lead the Bruins in scoring with 16 points and snaring 8 rebounds. Freshman Kennedy Burke showed terrific poise in her first NCAA Tournament appearance, contributing 15 points. The rest of the Bruins combined to shoot just 33.3% from the field.
Today's second round opponent is sixth-seeded USF. The Bulls advanced to the Round of 32 by defeating Colorado State 48-45. Although the Bulls aren't a one-person team, they nearly were against the Rams as they relied on senior guard Courtney Williams for 31 of their 48 points. Williams is averaging over 22 points/game this season, nearly twice what the next highest scorer averages.
Like the Bruins, the Bulls are strong defensively and like to play uptempo basketball. There are three key matchups to watch this evening. First, and perhaps most importantly, USF's Alisia Jenkins (6'1") will likely be matched up against Monique Billings. Billings' size advantage could mean that the Bulls will be forced to double on Billings in the post, which should create good looks for Kari Korver and Kennedy Burke from the perimeter.
Second, Nirra Fields is likely to get the defensive assignment against Courtney Williams. It's crucial that Fields stay out of foul trouble as she is one of the Bruins' top defenders and rebounders. Third, the winner of the battle between point guards Jordin Canada and Shalethia Springfield may well determine the outcome of the game.
The Bulls are just 7-6 in road games this season. That bodes well for UCLA; the Bruins are 14-1 at Pauley Pavilion this season.
This is a game the Bruins should win. They have superior talent and are playing at home. If UCLA can avoid foul trouble, the Bruins should be able to pull away in the second half.