Oct. 29, 2011
The UCLA women's basketball team is ranked No. 22 on the pre-season Associated Press poll released on Saturday. The Bruins could face as many as six other 2011-12 ranked teams this season, including the nation's No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams. Top-ranked Baylor and second-ranked Notre Dame are in the season-opening NWIT Tournament. Third-ranked Tennessee is on the Bruins home schedule this year.
UCLA, which finished with a No. 13 (ESPN/USA Today) and No. 8 (Associated Press) national ranking last season, will start off 2011-12 by hosting McNeese State in the first round of the WNIT Tournament on Nov. 11 in the John Wooden Center at 2 p.m.
The Bruins will also welcome San Diego State (Nov. 30) and No. 3-ranked Tennessee (Dec. 17) on the non-conference home schedule. The road slate includes games at the Cal State Northridge Tournament against West Virginia and then either Northridge or Cornell, Loyola Marymount, No. 21 LSU and a trip to Philadelphia to meet Temple and St. Joseph's. At least 16 games are on tap against teams which appeared in the postseason last year (Tennessee, Temple, No. 5 Stanford, Arizona State, McNeese State, West Virginia in NCAA Tournament) (No. 23 USC, Arizona, California, Colorado, St. Joseph's in WNIT).
New head coach Cori Close welcomes back eight returning letterwinners and two starters from last season's record-setting 28-5 campaign. The Bruins bring back returning starters Markel Walker, a junior guard/forward, who averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season, and Atonye Nyingifa, a redshirt junior forward, who posted 8.8 point and 5.4 rebound marks per game a year ago. Senior guard Rebekah Gardner, who came off the bench in 21 of 32 contests in 2010-11, is also back after recording 7.9 ppg and 3.3 rpg last season.
Also expected to be among the list of returning letterwinners was honors candidate Jasmine Dixon, a senior forward, who led the team with a 7.3 rebound average (8th in the Pac-10) and a 2.4 steals average (3rd in the Pac-10), along with placing second in scoring with a 12.1 average. However, Dixon suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in September and is expected to miss the season.
The 2011 team finished with a 28-5 record (16-2, second in Pac-10) after advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. The 28 wins rank as the second-most in school history. The 16 wins in the Pac-10 conference are the program's best total ever.