UCLA softball set to host No. 10 Missouri in NCAA Super Regional

UCLA catcher Stephany LaRosa heads for home plate after hitting a home run during a 9-1 win over CSUN on Friday. The Bruins hit 10 home runs as they swept through their NCAA Regional in three games at  Easton Stadium (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA catcher Stephany LaRosa heads for home plate after hitting a home run during a 9-1 win over CSUN on Friday. The Bruins hit 10 home runs as they swept through their NCAA Regional in three games at Easton Stadium. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA softball will host its second straight NCAA Super Regionals this weekend, with No. 10 Missouri standing in the way of its first Women’s College World Series berth since 2010 — also the year of the Bruins’ last national title. The two teams met once before back in February, with UCLA triumphing 8-0 in six innings.

The upcoming schedule at Easton Stadium:
Saturday, May 23 — Game 1, 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 24 — Game 2, 12 p.m.
Sunday, May 24 — Game 3, 3 p.m. (if necessary)

The seventh-seeded Bruins are operating in peak form, coming off wins over CSUN (9-1, five innings), Texas (4-1), and San Diego State (8-0, six innings).

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Mizzou spoils UCLA’s undefeated start

Missouri handed No. 18 UCLA its first loss of the season on Saturday, defeating the Bruins 80-71 and extending its home winning streak to 24 games. Jabari Brown scored a game-high 22 points, and was one of three Tigers with at least 20 points.

UCLA’s season-low in scoring came on just 37.7 percent shooting, going 8-of-31 in the second. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine each had 13 points.

Travis and David Wear combined for four points in 43 minutes.

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UCLA to play in November’s Las Vegas Invitational

Fans who enjoyed Vegas during the Pac-12 Tournament won’t have to wait until March to visit again.

UCLA officially announced today that it will play in the 13th annual Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 28 and 29. The Orleans Arena will host the Bruins, Nevada, Northwestern and Missouri. UCLA also has a nonconference game scheduled against the Tigers.

The regional round will take place the weekend prior, with UCLA hosting two teams. Those matchups will be against Chattanooga, IUPUI, Morehead State or Gardner-Webb.

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UCLA 97, Missouri 94 (OT): Have the Bruins arrived?

Yes, if your expectations aren’t a Final Four. In just one month since the face-plant against Cal Poly, UCLA has staged a slow, remarkable turnaround that culminated with the upset of the No. 7 Tigers — easily the Bruins’ biggest win of the season. (Missouri was technically a slight underdog in Vegas, but come on.)

They’ll pop back into the AP poll next week, after a win that cemented the key to saving Ben Howland’s job: letting go. This team might get incrementally better on defense, but it just doesn’t have the raw ability to ever play man the way Howland likes. But as Shabazz Muhammad said earlier this season, this team needs to up its pace and run fewer set plays. Let its freshmen freestyle on the run and hope they can outscore the other team on most nights.

That plan won’t result in 58.6 percent second-half shooting every night — how often are the Wears going to combine for 38 points? — but the Pac-12 only has one team (Arizona) that’s clearly better than the Tigers.

The high-end for this team could look something like last year’s Missouri squad, one that earned a No. 2 seed before being knocked out in the first round.

“This was a huge win for us especially going into conference play,” Travis Wear said. “To be going in with this type of momentum is awesome.”

Key Players: Shabazz Muhammad, for showing off a killer instinct in drilling two crucial 3-pointers in overtime. The second one, which gave the Bruins a 95-93 lead, was a particularly impressive offensive set: UCLA was patient as it swung the ball around the perimeter, with Kyle Anderson smartly passing up an OK 3-point look before giving the ball to Larry Drew for the eventual assist. Continue reading

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UCLA vs. Missouri: What to Watch

For some inexplicable reason, UCLA opened as a 2.5-point favorite over No. 7 Missouri, whose only loss came against No. 4 Louisville. Part of that might have to do with the 7 p.m. game being the Tigers first true road game this year, but the Bruins haven’t been close to showing they’re a top-10 caliber team.

What’s at stake: After faltering against San Diego State, UCLA has one last chance to bolster its postseason resume as it prepares to enter Pac-12 play on Jan. 3. A five-game winning streak would likely vault them back into the rankings as well, and keep Ben Howland’s job a little safer.

“It would definitely be a huge win for our current season,” said point guard Larry Drew II. “At this point, I think a win over anybody, everybody at this point would be good.”

Added freshman Kyle Anderson: “It’s a real big test for us. Missouri’s a great team. They’re a top-10 team. We’ve gotten better than the last time we played a top-25 team. We wanna see where we stand.”

At a glance: It’s really hard to see how the Bruins will defend a team as athletic as Missouri, so they’ll likely have to score at least 80 points to win. Ken Pomeroy still has UCLA as the 12th most efficient offensive team in the country, and the freshman trio of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams have started to gel more in recent games. Continue reading

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