With a second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16, UCLA faces their biggest challenge yet. They face four-time and reigning champs UConn. UConn has won 109 consecutive games and looks to make UCLA their 110th straight. If UCLA can pull out the win, it would be one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history.
I am not going to lie. I’m a little worried about today’s game. While UCLA has faced off against some of the toughest teams in the nation, the UConn Huskies are a different kind of team. The last time the Huskies lost a game was back in the Fall of 2014 against Stanford. In the meantime, they have won a record four national championships in a row. I tip my hat to this incredible program.
One of the biggest improvements the Bruins will need to make for today will be the battle of the boards. Their defensive rebounding has been a constant problem all season long. Against Boise State, the Broncos got a hold of 22 offensive rebounds. Against Texas A&M, the Aggies had 18. Monique Billings is the team’s leading rebounder. She averages 10.7 per game but had less than that during the first two rounds. While they have shown some improvement over the season, now more than ever, they need to get this issue under control. If they don’t, UConn will eat up all the offensive rebounds they can get their hands on.
The Bruins have had a very good tournament thus far. They have convincingly put their opponents to bed. In those games, they have played more like a team than they have all season long. Their shooting averaged higher than 50% in both games and almost 60% beyond the three-point line. A lot of that had to do with Kari Korver’s seven three-pointers on Monday with the majority coming in the first half. A lot of patience also contributed to their shooting. They remained poised throughout the game. Coach Cori Close managed the clock to help blow out their competition. UCLA needs to play as a team again with each and every player on top of their game. Maybe they can channel their inner Lonzo Ball or TJ Leaf.
In an LA Times article by Lindsey Thiry, coach Cori Close said, “Usually it’s not the more talented team that wins in the NCAA tournament…it’s the one that does things together and makes plays for each other…”
Is it possible UCLA can pull off the ultimate upset and knock off reigning champs UConn?
UCLA Women’s Basketball (#4 Seed, Bridgeport Region, 25-8)
Opponent: UConn Huskies (#1 Seed, Bridgeport Region, 34-0)
When: March 25, 2017, 11 am PT
Where: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, CT
TV: ESPN with Dave O’Brien, Doris Burke, Kara Lawson, and Holly Rowe
Live Stream: WatchESPN.com and the ESPN app
Live Stats: NCAA GameCenter