The UCLA women’s basketball team finished its regular-season home slate with a sweep of the Washington schools that clinched a first-round bye in next month’s Pac-12 tournament.
After a big 90-79 win over No. 9 Washington on Friday, the No. 18 Bruins extended their home unbeaten streak to 27 with a 67-48 win over Washington State on Sunday.
Jordin Canada, who spent most of the week rehabbing a neck injury she suffered against Oregon State, came off the bench against UW and scored 22 points to lead the Bruins (20-7, 11-5 Pac-12) to a critical ranked victory. UCLA was coming off a terrible road trip in which it lost three of four games. The win over the Huskies gave the Bruins a victory over each of the top three teams in the Pac-12 this season (Oregon State, Stanford and UW).
Against Washington State, Monique Billings tied a school record for rebounds in a game, pulling down 25, while notching her 16th double-double of the season with 12 points.
Steve Alford looked like he might make it all the way to mid-court – while the game was ongoing. The UCLA basketball coach clapped fiercely at his team early in Saturday’s second half, unaware of his surroundings but plenty cognizant of his team’s destination in the Pac-12 standings.
UCLA earned a redemptive 102-70 win over rival USC Saturday night that was significant for so many reasons. The Bruins avoided a fifth consecutive loss to their rival, which would have been its longest streak since the late 1940s. It avenged the ugliest mark on its NCAA tournament resume, an 84-76 loss to the Trojans on Jan. 25. The Bruins created a divide in the conference standings, above which it sits with only Oregon and Arizona. And UCLA proved against a competent basketball team that it may be playing its best basketball of the season at the best time.
The Bruins’ offense, the highest scoring and most efficient in the country, is back in fifth gear. And their defense is making strides that can’t be ignored. A date at Arizona awaits on Feb. 25, but so far UCLA has avenged two of its three losses this season, none sweeter than Saturday night’s shellacking of its crosstown rival.
USC’s 84-76 defeat of UCLA on Jan. 25 at Galen Center is the Bruins’ most confounding loss of the season. Entering tonight’s rematch at Pauley Pavilion, the number of questions dwarf the number of answers for a game with high stakes for both teams. So, let’s just ask them.
How will the return of USC’s best player, 6-foot-10 Bennie Boatwright, change the successful formula it employed against UCLA without him three weeks ago?
What does it mean for tonight’s matchup that UCLA’s sub-par defensive efficiency actually improved during the loss to USC this season?
Are we to believe UCLA coach Steve Alford when he said his team was tired entering its last game against USC because it was the first Pac-12 team to play a conference game and the last to get a bye, which followed its loss to USC? READ: Preview story for No. 6 UCLA vs USC
Is it more likely that the Bruins were mentally fatigued from carrying the expectations likely inflated by the entertaining style courtesy of Lonzo Ball, who drew even more attention to the program as one of the most exciting players in the country?
How will a UCLA team with the fourth-best 3-point shooting percentage in the country respond if USC again employs the zone defense that gave it fits Jan. 25? Continue reading →
Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball said the UCLA coaching staff hasn’t tried to dissuade him from shooting well behind the 19-foot, 9-inch 3-point line
Lonzo Ball took the most important shot of the UCLA basketball team’s season last week – when he was 30 feet from the basket. As a reference point, the college 3-point line is 19 feet, 9 inches. The NBA line is four feet beyond that.
The analytics movement promotes 3-pointers, but how does the Bruins’ coaching staff feel about Ball hoisting shots from 30 feet?
“As long as they’re going in,” Ball said, “they don’t really care.”
With 32 seconds left against Oregon, Ball’s step-back, contested 30-footer touched nothing but the bottom of the net. It was the decisive basket in UCLA’s 82-79 win a week ago over then-No. 5 Oregon.
Twenty-six games into his college career, Ball is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. Steve Alford learned of Ball’s penchant for 3-pointers from NBA range and beyond while recruiting him at Chino Hills High School more than three years ago. The UCLA coach never tried to rein in his freshman point guard, said he never had a reason to.
“As far out as they can go to where they consistently make them, I’m fine with,” Alford said. “Lonzo has always had that ability. He’s kind of grown up in high school and he’s had that ability. Now you’ve got to pick and choose and I think he’s done a very good job this year of understanding the ebb and flow of the game of when to do that and when not to do it.”
Ball’s go-to shot with the clock winding down has been the deep, step-back 3-pointer. Continue reading →