January 2012 Archives
Say what you will about the inconsistencies displayed at times on the floor, or the woeful injuries that have hit the team, but even the casual fan had to revel in the fortitude the Bruins channeled this week, staging a pair of rallies to remember in their two come-from-behind wins on the road against Utah and Colorado.
On both occasions, the Bruins faced seemingly-insurmountable deficits well into the second half, clearly gassed from playing at unfamiliar altitudes. But on both occasions, the ladies played some of their most relentless basketball of the season and eked out their first two-win week, first defeating the Utes 65-60 before downing the Buffaloes 62-54 in overtime. The takeaways from both games are as follows:
Against the Utes
Like an eighth-inning relief pitcher preserving a baseball game for the closer, it was Mariah Wiliams of all players who kept the Bruins in Thursday's game and made the comeback win possible. Williams, who averages 4.8 points per game, exploded onto the scene in Salt Lake City, punishing the Utes with a career-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. It wasn't just jumpers, either; on numerous possessions, Williams took her defender off the dribble and promptly matched leather to net.
"It just comes down to having confidence, and I got it from my teammates and the coaching staff," Williams said on Thursday.
If Williams was one half of the story, the Bruins' clutch defense was the other. Down 55-46 with 5:48 left in the game, UCLA went with a full court press during that last five-minute stretch, a gutsy call considering the clear signs of fatigue. To say the least, the press paid dividends; Utah simply ceased to function as an offense, as the Bruins got three key steals in that span and staged a dominating 19-5 run to complete the rally.
"That was one of the things we learned from the game: Despite our low numbers in players, we can switch to the press and really disrupt a team's offense," Williams said. "To be a part of that was really fun."
Against the Buff's
If Thursday night was a challenge, the circumstances in Boulder just screamed for a Bruin loss: Colorado's Chucky Jeffery started to get hot from the field in the second half; Corinne Costa fouled out of the game with 2:07 left in regulation; the officials began to nitpick on the traveling calls down the stretch. And to top it all off, UCLA simply looked in danger of losing the game to bouts with stamina - and that was before overtime.
But again, much like their performance three days ago, the Bruins - heavy breathing and all - clamped down on defense in the critical moments, causing the Buffaloes' offense to vanish into the thin Colorado air.
And this time, it was a blend of both zone and press defense that got the job done for the blue and gold.
"The zone helped especially with guarding Chucky, because she likes to drive or get to the lanes and kick the ball out to the shooters," said Rebekah Gardner, who notched 17 points. "With the zone, she couldn't go one-on-one as much as she usually does."
As for the killer press that finished off the Buff's?
"The full-court press basically picked up the play and took Chucky and their other playmakers out of their game," said Markel Walker, who had a stellar game with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
One factor that may not have been as noticeable was the usage of timeouts. Certainly, with their first overtime game of the season, the Bruins faced a test of will and stamina. As such, it was critical for UCLA that the timeouts were used strategically and at key junctures.
"Coach Cori Close's strategy of when to use the timeouts helped us a lot because it gave us the breaks when we needed them most," Gardner said. "It also helped that it was a TV game, because the media timeouts were longer."
With two impressive wins now in the books, the Bruins return home, a much-deserving sigh of relief in order.
UCLA's impressive 77-60 Pac-12 Conference victory over
Colorado on Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles Sports Arena sets the sort of
example that makes parents proud.
The Bruins tallied a season-high 26 assists, which helped
lead to their most dominant performance of the season. Senior guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson led the way again for UCLA (12-9, 5-4) as Jones
finished with a game-high 17 points and nine assists. Anderson added eight
points and eight assists.
"I thought we were patient," Jones said. "We made good
decisions. Coach has really been focusing in practice on pushing it and making
good decisions. We were aggressive penetrating but also knew when to push it
and when to pull it out (and find open shooters)."
It wasn't just the senior guards who made an impact.
Sophomore Tyler Lamb was lauded by Coach
Ben Howland for having "one of his
best games as a Bruin," after he finished with 13 points, six assists and three
steals. Freshman Norman Powell added
six points, including a 3-pointer to end the first half and give UCLA a 40-36
Howland touted Lamb's defensive performance against
Colorado's leading scorer Carlon Brown,
who was held to six points on 2-of-7 shooting and three turnovers. Lamb and
Brown have known each other since middle school, even playing on the same AAU
team, and Lamb said Howland challenged him before the game to slow him down.
"Lamb played great defense today on Brown," Howland said.
"Tremendous, awesome job today. He really, really took the challenge on
It wasn't just Lamb who
accepted the challenge against Colorado (14-7, 6-3), which has been an
impressive addition to the Pac-12 basketball ranks.
The front court played well
too. Travis Wear finished with 14 points
and seven rebounds while his twin brother, David
Wear, had 11 points and three rebounds. Josh Smith added eight points, including one of the more bizarre
plays of the season. Smith excited the crowd with a forceful two-handed slam
but landed on the basketball and fell to the ground. Smith didn't suffer a
serious injury, but it looked strange and potentially unlucky.
Even sophomore center Anthony Stover, who played just three
minutes, made an impact. He had two blocks, including a crowd-pleasing
rejection that drew a standing ovation. As Stover came out of the game soon
after the block, he turned and nodded to the pleased UCLA crowd before taking a
seat on the bench.
At every angle, it was as
complete a victory as UCLA has delivered this season.
"This was real important for
us," Howland said. Great team effort - we worked so hard in practice this week.
They earned (it)."
Now, UCLA needs to apply
that same formula to earn more conference road victories.
UCLA guard Jerime Anderson isn't looking at a sense of
urgency as a senior moment. Nobody could blame him if he did - especially after
the Bruins lost at Oregon State and Oregon last week.
Instead, the senior point guard took exception to the
idea that he should be looking at the clock to his college career after UCLA's blowout victory over
visiting Utah, 76-49, on Thursday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The win was Coach Ben Howland's 200th victory at UCLA.
"I guess as a senior I don't have very much time left, but
that's not how I'm looking at it," said Anderson, who had 13 points, three
assists and three steals. "My sense of urgency is I want my team to win games.
We need to get back into the race of trying to win the Pac-12. There's a lot
time left. When my year is over, my year will be over. Until then, I am going
to practice as hard as I can and I am going to play as hard as I can. Whether I'm
a senior or a freshman, it should be the same for every player on the team."
Anderson answered the question with a bit of an edge. He
didn't snarl or yell, but it was apparent he wasn't counting UCLA (11-9, 4-4) out
of anything just yet. And his declaration came shortly after Howland praised his
effort against the Utes (5-15, 2-6).
"Very efficient, solid defense," Howland said. "Jerime
had one of his best games as a Bruin tonight."
Anderson was one of four Bruins to score in double
figures, joined by Josh Smith, who scored a game-high 14 points, David Wear (13
points) and Tyler Lamb (10 points).
And there were plenty of highlights from the blowout win:
* The Bruins (11-9, 4-4) shot a blistering 58.7
percent from the field, including a light's out 73.7 percent after halftime.
* UCLA stacked a 14-4 run over final 6:35 of
the first half into a dominating 42-17 run during a stretch that lasted 18:05.
*UCLA outrebounded Utah, 34-23.
* UCLA made 9 of 16 3-pointers and held Utah to
just 5-for-16 after it made its first three 3-pointers of the game.
"It was a real confidence booster for us," Wear said. "We
had two really good days of practice and coming out and doing what we did in
practice with high intensity for 40 minutes and not having any letdowns (was
Anderson said the Bruins can't suffer letdowns, such as
the second half against Oregon, again.
"We have to refuse to let it happen the rest of the year,"
Anderson said. "We have a lead like that and should be able to keep it."
If these Ducks actually played with wings, they would've left quite a feather-storm today at the John Wooden Center.
After handling Oregon State on Thursday, UCLA was simply swept off the floor against Oregon, the frenetic, quick-footed Ducks defeating the Bruins 83-62. Some musings from the game:
The Ducks can score, and can score quickly
Truthfully, Oregon's offense proved to be too much from the get-go. By the end of the first half, the Ducks were on pace to score in the 100's, taking a 52-23 lead into halftime. Too often, Oregon would get a shot off just about 10 seconds into the shot clock, with the Bruins still pedaling into their defensive positions. If it wasn't Jasmin Holliday (21 points) and Danielle Love (16) draining quick jumpers from the perimeter, Oregon had Liz Brenner (15) muscling her way in the post.
"We allowed it to be a blitz," coach Cori Close said. "We sent three people to the ball and reached, or we let them get offensive rebounds so that we had to play defense for 70-80 seconds. As fast as they were, we knew we had to play transition defense and out-rebound them. The reality is that we didn't play the way we needed to, which fed exactly into the way Oregon wanted to play."
A Perimeter-Oriented Game
Save the efforts of Brenner, this was a contest mostly powered from the perimeter. And it was only natural, as both teams relied heavily on zone defense. The difference, however, was that when UCLA went zone, the Ducks - as active and mobile as they were - would find the open shooter (10-for-27 from beyond the arc), but when Oregon showed zone, the Bruins struggled to find a decent look at the basket, often using all of the shot clock to get a shot off.
And even when the Ducks misfired, they chased down the offensive rebounds for second-chance opportunities. Overall, the Ducks scored 27 second-chance points, in addition to 20 points off of turnovers.
Extended Minutes for Brooks
Chalk it to the need for breathers against Oregon's high-octane, fast-paced offense, the advantages that come with having a shooter on the floor, or simply a coach's whim, but this was the first game in which freshman walk-on Madeline Brooks played extended minutes. And she wasn't too shabby, either. Defensively, Brooks held her own, staying in front of her player and making the necessary rotations. That, and she scored her first career three-pointer, a spot-up trey off of an assist from Rebekah Gardner, who had a game-high 22 points.
"I'm thankful for Madeline; she's the first one in the gym and she gets here two hours before the game so she can get extra shots up when no one else is here," Close said. "She may not have the tools as some of our other players, but she's maximizing what she can contribute for her team. The fact of the matter is, she earned her minutes."
One other item of news to note: Kacy Swain went down in a heap in the second half after being hit in the head, and her status is a day-to-day situation.
She may not don a bizarre mask or have a spandex costume secretly stashed away in a beaten-up trash bin near you, but Markel Walker was something of a heroine tonight, catalyzing the Bruins to a 69-60 win over the Oregon State Beavers at the John Wooden Center.
It was an overall satisfactory night for a Bruin team that has increasingly shown throughout the course of the season that its strength is its transition game. At times, the pace of the game sputtered, but UCLA got off to the races when needed, thanks in large part to Walker's efforts. Here are some quick post-game pointers:
Back on Boards
After being out-rebounded by USC 48-40 this past Saturday, UCLA did a thorough job of dominating the glass against Oregon State, owning a 47-31 advantage on the boards. Coach Cori Close has been adamant that it is the hunger for gobbling up rebounds that will drive this team, and tonight was a stellar showing in that regards.
"I want this team to feel how much more fun it is to get out in transition, but you have to scratch and claw on the defensive boards in order to have those opportunities," Close said. "I want us to continue to fight for those rebounds because it feeds into the way we play best, especially when we're playing with a four-guard lineup."
Walker was undoubtedly the best at putting said theory to use. Whether it was seizing second-chance opportunities or reeling in missed Oregon State shots, the third-year guard/forward did her best to channel her inner Kevin Love, amassing a total of 18 rebounds by game's end. And speaking of which...
Moves Like Walker
The honest truth is that no pop song has yet to be named after her, but the coaching staff had to have been beaming (maybe slightly grooving discreetly) to Walker's all-around performance tonight. She may not have been the most efficient shooting (5-for-15 from the field) and did have some slip-ups (five turnovers), but it was the timeliness of her play that largely dictated the results.
Besides the rebounding, Walker got on a roll in the assists department, heaving outlet passes left and right. The highlight came with 11:40 left in the game, when Walker snared a defensive rebound and promptly hurled the ball the full length of the court to a breaking Rebekah Gardner for the easy layup.
"I like playing with her, because she finds me," Gardner casually admitted with a smile, before pausing. "She finds all of us actually, so it's fun playing with Markel."
There were also multiple possessions where Walker played out of the post. And while playing from that position isn't exactly her first preference, she did show flashes of effectiveness with her back to the basket.
"Playing from the post lets me see the court," Walker said. "Instead of facing up and facing the defender, I can see everything, so I can make the skip pass, the pass in front of me, or attack the basket."
Walker simply was the do-it-all cog to the Bruins' victory, finishing the game one assist shy of a triple double with 16 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and a block.
A Pretty Transition Game
It bears no repeating, but the Bruins were just too much for the Beavers whenever they got out on the run. And it wasn't just Walker, Gardner (19 points), and Thea Lemberger (9), either. Mariah Williams, Rhema Gardner, and Corinne Costa all contributed, scoring key baskets in transition as well. It was, to put it shortly, a brand of basketball that Close called "pretty."
"As a coach, you think about how many fastbreaks happen with one dribble or none at all," Close said. "When we can use our legs to create angles and hit passes without having to put the ball on the ground, that's really pretty, and it shows a lot of growth in our teamwork."
It might just take a
play on words for the Bruins to put last week's loss to USC behind them.
Scratch that - ask coach
Cori Close, and it's a certainty that the only way her team can rebound this
week is to, well, rebound.
"We have to
rebound, that's the bottom line," Close said. "This team is best when
we can use our versatility and attack before the defense sets its rotations,
but we can't do that until we get rebounds and secure that end of the
The crashing of the boards
will be just one of several aspects to look out for this week, with UCLA
hosting Oregon State tonight at 7 p.m. at the John Wooden Center, followed by
an afternoon tilt against Oregon on Saturday.
continues to be one of the coaching staff's primary preaching points this
season, it was made clear against USC that the Bruins will need to generate
more offense. And according to Close, it's a situation that has been duly
"Oregon State plays
a lot of zone, and they're going to try and play off of Rhema (Gardner) and
Mariah (Williams)," Close said. "We've been working on how to put
Mariah and Rhema in positions where they can score because I expect Oregon
State to really try and make our role players make plays."
Speaking of the
opposition, the Beavers come into Westwood boasting the talents of one Patricia
Bright, who leads the conference in blocked shots (3.76 swats per game). But be
that as it may, Bright's interior presence won't exactly be top priority.
"Bright is a a great
player and does her job really well, but I'm more worried about stopping their
three-point shots and keeping them out of the lane," Close said. "If
she starts to alter the game with her shot-blocking ability, we'll move her
around and do some things to limit that factor."
This week figures to
provide a clearer perspective of where exactly the Bruins stand in a rather
convoluted Pac-12 battle; Stanford has clearly separated itself from the pack
with a 6-0 conference record, but as it stands, UCLA (2-3) remains just two
games behind second-place USC (4-1), with four other teams tied with the Bruins
for fifth place.
In the end, these are
two very winnable games for the blue and gold, and two wins keep the Bruins in
the thick of the conference race.
Six former Bruins are playing in the Humana Challenge beginning today in Palm Desert and continuing through Sunday. They are Scott McCarron, Kevin Chappell, Spencer Levin, Tom Pernice, Jr., Brandt Jobe and John Merrick. Formerly the Bob Hope Classic, this event also features three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and two-time British Open winner Greg Norman. Amateur celebrities entered include Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, Grammy Award winner Smokey Robinson and NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving.
UCLA started the season as the favorite in the Pac-12
Conference men's basketball race and looks busy reminding everyone why - especially USC.
The Bruins crushed their neighbors, 66-47, on Sunday
night at Galen Center. It was their third win in a row and pushed the Trojans
(5-13, 0-5) to their sixth loss in a row.
Coach Ben Howland pointed to his teams' efforts in
practice to improve their offensive execution and called a 44-19 rebounding
"It's been our main focus since the Cal game - get better
on the offensive end, which takes the pressure off of us," Howland said. "This
is big for us to get a true road win and to beat our USC rivals. Both of those
are big for us - no question."
UCLA took over during the first half, turning a 9-9 tie
into a 37-19 halftime lead, using runs of 14-1 and 11-0 to take over.
"Being here and playing against those guys, once we
started clicking, rebounds and pushing the ball one after another we were able
to get the lead up to 15-16 points," David Wear said.
USC coach Kevin O'Neill called the Bruins a team that's "ever-improving,"
which should have Bruins fans beaming with excitement. Twins David and Travis
Wear combined for 32 points and 15 rebounds, which shows their continued
progression as players. And senior Lazeric Jones continued
to grow comfortable with his move to the wing, adding 15 points and five
"Right now we've found our niche a little bit," said
Travis, who had a game high 19 points and eight rebounds. "We just need to
expand on this and keep improving."
Now, the Bruins need to ride this momentum on its
upcoming road trip to face Oregon and Oregon State and stay near the top of the
Sometimes guys can be tough on each other - especially good
Going bald? You've probably already heard it from your
oldest friends. Wearing an ugly shirt is a sure-fire way to be on the receiving
end of some trash talk from buddies. But Tyler Lamb was quick to deny giving
teammate Josh Smith a hard time about putting on some extra weight during this
"No, no, no, I'm not making Josh mad," Lamb said when
asked if he or his teammates called him fat when he returned to campus this
fall weighing well over 300 pounds.
Coach Ben Howland and the training staff have been
working with Smith, whose improved conditioning during the course of the season
has the Bruins believing he can continue to progress and cause problems for the
"So much attention from defense, the other guys," David
Wear said about playing with an effective Smith. "He definitely opens a lot of
guys on our team to get the ball in scoring opportunities."
Wear and Smith paired up for one of the most impressive
offensive sets in the Bruins 75-58 win over Arizona State when they executed a
textbook give-and-go for an easy bucket.
"I saw he was in the post and had his man sealed," Wear
said. "I called for (the ball), gave him the ball and acted like I was going to
go screen away and cut down the middle. I saw my man go to double and yeah, it
was just a wide-open play."
Lamb used the phrase "commands attention" when explaining
the impact Smith has on the Bruins offense. If he has that sort of presence for
the Bruins on Sunday night, it could be another runaway victory.
"I hope he continues to take off from where he was
(against ASU)," Howland said.
Howland is right - every game is a "must win" now: Howland
used this very phrase with reporters earlier this week. He knows the Bruins
need to win the Pac-12 Conference to assure a spot in the NCAA Tournament and
now it's crunch time. They've passed the halfway point on the regular season
and the Pac-12 won't be overloaded with at-large bids. Beating a 5-12 USC team
that is winless in its first four Pac-12 games is most definitely a must-win.
going inside - early and often: Lazeric Jones might be the
Bruins leading scorer and most dangerous offensive player - it's why Howland's
decision to play him more on the wing is such a good one. But that doesn't mean
UCLA shouldn't make Travis and David Wear and Josh Smith the focal points of
the offense. Wear teams down and pound them with the size advantage. It should
open things up for Jones and the rest of the perimeter players, which leads to
our last statement.
needs to make more 3-pointers to keep winning: The
Bruins are averaging .345 as a team from behind the arc, good for 10th
in the Pac-12, which isn't so good. The Bruins need to make more, preferably at
a 40 percent clip, to keep winning.
As far as rivalry games go, it wasn't exactly the most glamorous of contests.
In the first UCLA-USC get-together of the season, it was more clanked shots and hands in faces than swished jumpers and swift ball movement. And while it was a far cry from an offensive showcase, it was the Trojans who converted and got the key buckets down the stretch, slipping by the Bruins 47-43 at the John Wooden Center. The takeaways from the game:
SC's Defensive Scheme
After the game, USC coach Michael Cooper made it known that the collective plan was to shut down the Bruins' top three scorers in Thea Lemberger, Markel Walker, and Rebekah Gardner. Clearly, Cooper and his team made their mark, the trio shooting a collective 10-for-40 from the field.
"We shut down the players that we wanted to," Cooper said. "Rebekah was the only one that got away, but Markel and Thea were two of the ones we knew we had to at least keep below their averages."
While Gardner was able to find her way to the basket with a game-high 20 points, not having those other offensive options hurt the Bruins in the waning minutes of the game when victory was still within reach.
Battle of the Guards
Defense is a specialty for Mariah Williams, and she drew a challenging assignment in having to go up against Ashley Corral, USC's all-time 3-point leader. The Trojans' senior guard ended the day shooting just 3-of-12, but did some damage with eight assists.
"I enjoy guarding her," Williams said. "It was tough when they started doing the high-ball screens; she did a really good job of going shoulder to shoulder with her screener and made some things happen as a result."
Williams herself was a pleasant surprise for the Bruins on the offensive end, all eight of her points coming on jumpers. In fact, the junior guard scored the Bruins' first six points of the game on three consecutive jump shots, and would score another one late in the second half.
"Mariah played really steady and did a great job for us today," Close said. "The reality is that they were playing off of her, so we wanted to set a set play, knowing they were double-teaming off of her."
The Two-Minute Stretch
Heading into the final timeout of the game at the 2:27 mark, the Bruins were still only down 43-40 and got as close as 44-43 after Williams sunk her fourth jumper with 23 seconds left. But even taking into consideration a not-so-stellar offense from either team, it was the Bruins' struggle with getting second-chance looks that eventually decided the outcome.
"USC played really good defense and tried to make us play to our weaknesses, and we did the same to them," Close said. "The difference was, when they played to their weakness and missed a shot, they went and got another one, and we weren't able to. Both teams forced the first shot they wanted to force, and so it really came down to the focus on rebounding."
This isn't just an exciting weekend for UCLA and USC fans
- it's the sort of sports weekend that affects work production and has fans salivating all week.
Football fans are stoked with the NFL playoffs while the
pro version of the LA championship happens Saturday night with the Lakers and
Clippers facing off in Staples Center.
And there's a full slate of college basketball - with
UCLA's trip to Galen Center to face crosstown foe USC wrapping up the weekend.
It comes for the Bruins after a sweep of the Arizona
schools last week at Honda Center and a week of rest and practice.
"It's good from my standpoint," Coach Ben Howland said about the Pac-12
schedule that has UCLA taking the week off before playing USC. "It's an
important week of practice. It's the last time we'll have four or five
practices in a row before a game. We've got to utilize this."
Sophomore guard Tyler
Lamb said playing in the crosstown rivalry was one of the reasons he wanted
to attend UCLA and said he knew it wasn't just a big deal for the team, but for
alumni too. Forward David Wear said he's
fielded a few questions from his classmates too.
"A couple people were asking me what time it was at and
are excited because it's USC," Wear said. "They wanted to go out and watch it."
For sports fans, it's just a fantastic finish to what is
shaping up to be a fun weekend of viewing and cheering.
UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland isn't always
given his due when it comes to his sense of humor. The intense, focused coach
let loose a little bit during his weekly press conference in Westwood leading
into Sunday's rivalry game at USC.
When a question came up about who the team's best dunker
is - and if he cared - it lead to a room full of smiles after somebody asked
him about his dunking prowess as a player.
"I was a 'use-the-backboard, fundamentally-sound,
off-the-backboard, layup guy," Howland said before smiling and answering if it
was by necessity or choice that he used his fundamentals instead of
"I was also a tight shorts, tight short shorts guy. It's
funny you go back and see the old games, just funny. There's so much material
now on these shorts, you're just used to it now."
Press sports reporter Beth Harris poked at Howland, mentioning that he's
referenced that's how he attracted his wife Kim, which caused a room full of
straight-faced reporters to chuckle.
And for the record, Howland agreed that freshman Norman
Powell is the team's best dunker.
Bruin fans could get used to that
sort of game.
UCLA capped a stellar week in Orange
County with a 75-58 Pac-12 Conference victory over Arizona State at Honda
Center on Saturday night.
And it started in the post, where
sophomore Joshua Smith did his best to make up for missing Thursday
night's win over Arizona due to a concussion. The 6-foot-10 center had his best
performance of the season with 18 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. Coach
Ben Howland pointed out that Smith not only looked for his shots, he
attacked the basket.
"He opens up everything for
us," said senior guard Lazeric Jones about Smith. "There are a
lot of cuts to the basket, wide open jump shots. Josh is a force, and teams
have to help down on him or he can make them pay for it if they're playing him
1-on-1. And Josh is a good passer too, so for him to be aggressive can really
He was accompanied by Travis
and David Wear, who both followed up great games on Thursday night with
another solid showing. Travis had 16 points and seven rebounds, five on the
offensive glass. David had eight points and nine rebounds.
It wasn't just the post players who
stood out. Jones and Jerime Anderson continued to give the Bruins (9-7,
2-2) multiple attack points. Jones had eight points, 10 assists and two steals,
while Anderson had seven points, four assists and four steals. Tyler Lamb
and Norman Powell both added nine points each as well. Powell and Smith
paired for all 27 bench points for the Bruins, which only gave up six to the
short-handed Sun Devils (5-10, 1-2), who suspended three players for their trip
to Southern California and were limited to six scholarship players.
"Our players seized the
opportunity," Howland said.
"We had a great weekend. It was a positive step."
UCLA hasn't had the season it
anticipated, just two games above .500, but it's an interesting time for the
team, which is still in the thick of the Pac-12 race. Players and Howland both
pointed to three strong practices early in the week that led to a pair of
victories. Now, they'll rest for two days before having a full week of practice
before playing rival USC at the Galen Center on Sunday, Jan. 15.
"I'm glad we've got a week
off," Howland said. "They're starting school (again). We need this
"These practices will be real
big in the weeks to come (for us)."
The Bruins need to turn those
practices into more performances like their wins over Arizona and ASU to prove
their coach right.
The odds continue to
stack up for the UCLA women's basketball team in what's surely been an
increasingly trying season, and yet, the Bruins keep on fighting.
After losing to Arizona
74-66 Thursday in Tucson, UCLA took another personnel hit midway through the
first half of Saturday's game against Arizona State, when Moriah Faulk went
down with an injury and would not return the rest of the way. And yet the
Bruins managed to clinch their first Pac-12 road win of the season, beating the
Sun Devils 64-48 in Tempe.
Notes from the two games
in the desert are as follows:
Against the Wildcats
Foul trouble simply
sealed the Bruins' fate on Thursday. Never mind the fact that the Wildcats
enjoyed a 25-10 advantage in free-throw attempts, the key stretch was when
Markel Walker and Thea Lemberger had to sit out a good chunk of the second
half, each with four fouls. Just how crucial was the absence of those two
players? After Lemberger picked up her fourth personal and took a seat on the
bench with 9:18 left in the game (Walker had already sat out at the 14:04
mark), Arizona went on an 18-6 run to complete the come-from-behind win.
Against the Sun Devils
At this point, the
Bruins' season is going the way of some cruel Shakespearean play, especially so
after Faulk became UCLA's fourth casualty to injury in the first half. But
behind the efforts of Walker, the Bruins persevered. The third-year forward
played a game worth of a fantasy basketball league, sprinkling the box score
with 15 points (she went 2-for-2 from behind the arc), 13 rebounds (six
offensive and seven defensive), five assists, and three steals.
"I just want to do
whatever I can to help this team win," Walker said. "I know I'm one
of the more versatile players on the team, so I try to get my teammates good
looks when I can, rebound the ball, and whatever else I can."
"I can't put a
price tag on Markel's efforts," UCLA head coach Cori Close added. "She is one of the
smartest basketball players I've been around, and she was very steady for us
today. Her work on the boards, both offensively and defensively, was such a
huge boost for us."
But more than anything,
Close attributed today's win to the team's preparation coming into the game.
The Bruins apparently went through some rigorous practice and film sessions,
and their efforts certainly paid off.
"I'm most impressed
with our preparation yesterday. Honestly, that's what led to the victory
today," Close said. "Yesterday, every single player watched every
single one of their minutes from the game before with an individual coach. The
reality is, I thought our players were in a battle, and they responded so well
to different things. When Arizona State went to zone defense in the second
half, we were right on target. We knew exactly what we were going to do, we
moved the ball quickly and got ourselves quick, easy shots."
Other observations to
note: Corinne Costa had the jumper going today, knocking down a few shots from
10-15 feet away from the basket. It's a facet of her game that the sophomore
center isn't quite known for, but apparently the ability has always been there.
"She hasn't had too
many opportunities with that shot, but Corinne is actually a really good
shooter, and she's more confident shooting the ball facing the basket than she
is with her back to the basket," Close said.
And on the subject of
role players, Close also dished credit to Rhema Gardner, who grabbed eight
rebounds (several of which came at key junctures down the stretch), and Mariah
Williams, who had six assists.
Said Close: "I
think about the role players on this team, and they all did their jobs today.
Corinne was hitting those jumpers and was a force in the middle, Rhema came
through with eight rebounds in 16 minutes, and Mariah was really selfless. The
role players were the glue for us today."
Branding partnerships are tricky - but when done well, it's
as comfortable as a favorite T-shirt.
UCLA, John Wooden and The Original Retro Brand, a popular
apparel company that takes pop culture graphics and couples them with super
soft, nice-fitting T-shirts, announced its exclusive UCLA John Wooden
collection earlier this week to coincide with the Wooden Classic on Thursday
night at Honda Center pitting Pac-12 Conference foes UCLA against Arizona.
UCLA t-shirts touting Wooden's 10 national championships
and the phrase "What Would Wooden Do?" are included in the collection. The brand
already has cache with the student body, as it worked with the UCLA student
section, "The Den," to create its official T-shirt for this season.
The coupling is so snug, the Wooden family worked with
the company, which will donate proceeds from the collection to support the
"Nell and John R. Wooden Scholarship Fund," which is awarded to a deserving
UCLA undergraduate student each year.
"Coach Wooden's passion, work ethic and dedication to
being a mentor to his players will never be forgotten and is a perfect fit for
our brand," said Marc Herman, owner
of The Original Retro Brand.
Branding is a tricky thing - especially for a program
like UCLA - which currently partners with adidas to create its official apparel
and team uniforms. In today's world of chrome and matte green helmets, it's
more important than ever UCLA works with adidas closely to create the present
and future look for Bruins fans, players and staff.
But pairing the iconic history of the UCLA basketball
program, John Wooden, with a popular and trendy apparel line allows UCLA to
honor its past without forgetting its focus is still on the future.
Any UCLA fans who haven't had a chance to see the Bruins
during their OC portion of the Bruin Road Show should definitely make the trip
for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. tip-off for the Pac-12 Conference game against Arizona
State at Honda Center.
It's a great venue to watch basketball - one of the great
mysteries in pro sports is how an NBA team has never moved here full-time - and
the Bruins played well in their win over Arizona on Thursday night, so it should
be an interesting game as the Bruins try to get back to .500 in conference
UCLA basketball fans got a chance to meet new UCLA
football coach Jim Mora at halftime of the Arizona game. Mora told Bruin
fans he wants to make them feel proud to be wearing UCLA apparel and even led
the crowd in the traditional 8-clap cheer.
After Mora left the court, he ran into Arizona coach Sean
Miller, who was headed back out to the court with his team, but stopped to
shake Mora's hand and offer him congratulations on the new gig.
Lamb Looking More Like a Lion
UCLA sophomore guard Tyler Lamb is quickly becoming one
of the more exciting players to watch on the Bruins. He might not be getting
the attention seniors Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson get as primary ball
handlers, but Coach Ben Howland pointed out Lamb's defense against Arizona's Eric
Fogg and in previous games. Lamb is the Bruins' best perimeter defender, which
is a point Howland makes on a regular occasion to the media. If he can improve
his 3-point shooting, which is just over 30 percent this season, Lamb will
quickly be more than a defensive standout for the Bruins.
Moves To Wing
Lazeric Jones has become such an an effective scorer for
the Bruins, they've moved him to the wing and used Jerime Anderson as the
ball-handler. It's something we discussed in a previous post and
it was an effective way to use the pair of point guards against Arizona. But
that doesn't mean Jones isn't still getting used to the change.
"I've never played off the ball in my life," Jones said. "It's
a lot different.
"I'm trying to get used to it. If it helps us get wins, I'll
do whatever the coach tells me to do."
High expectations have followed David and Travis Wear
throughout their basketball careers, and while UCLA coach Ben Howland has exercised patience with the twins so far, that time
might be coming to an end.
After the pair bludgeoned Arizona and led the Bruins to
their first Pac-12 Conference victory, 65-58, on Thursday night at Honda
Center, Howland set their best performance of the season as a baseline level of
expectation, noting he'd like to see "more rebounds hopefully, less foul
It was about all he could ask after Travis finished with
a career-high 20 points, as well as five rebounds and three blocks, and David
had 14 points and five rebounds. The pair did it without center Josh Smith, who sat out with a
concussion suffered in
"We need our bigs to score down low," said senior guard Lazeric Jones, who added 13 points,
five rebounds, four assists and three steals. "Games like this, when my jump
shot is not falling, it didn't make a lot of difference for us because they
were banging down low.
"We need them to do that."
It's clear from the rotation and performance on the court
that UCLA's success this season will be placed in the hands of the Wear twins.
If UCLA is going to rebound in the second half of the season and make a run at
the conference title and an NCAA Tournament bid, their continued growth is a
"They do not have very much (college game) experience,"
Howland said. "They didn't play much as freshmen (and sat out last season due
to transfer rules). They have game experience like (true freshman) Norman
(Powell), even though they are older."
They didn't look inexperienced against Arizona, battling
for position down low and leaving a strong impression on Arizona. Coach Sean Miller said they "were very good
getting the ball inside," and forward Solomon
Hill said their "length is a big part of their success."
"That was a big emphasis the last couple days in practice,
making sure everything was going toward the hoop and no fadeaways or shying
away from contact," David Wear said. "It was unfortunate that we both got in foul
trouble, so we couldn't be as aggressive as we would have liked to be. But
still we came and set the tone early that we were going to play hard, play
aggressive and hold it down low."
Howland said the pair practiced well, and it was important
for them to see that translate to a game. Now, they'll just need to keep
performing at that high level - with a lot more rebounding and a few fewer
What a conference-opening week it
was for UCLA women's basketball: a win and a loss to show for the Bruins'
first meetings with two teams projected to be in the upper echelon of the
Pac-12 in Cal and Stanford.
But it's bags packed and on to the
next one for UCLA, who will be facing host Arizona at 6 p.m. tonight at
the McKale Center before taking on Arizona State on Saturday. A quick roundup
of the week that was and the week to come for the blue and gold:
Swinging the Ball
As the game against Stanford
indicated, ball movement is an essential must for the Bruins. For most of the
possessions in the second half, the offense seemed stagnant, though that will
happen more times than not against a disciplined and experienced Cardinal team.
And given the shortage of players, the scoring will have to be generated more
through fundamental plays than one-on-one isolations.
"The reality of the situation
is that we don't have a surplus of firepower weapons to take over the
game," coach Cori Close said. "It's really important that we use each
other to get easier shots."
The Emergence of Lemberger
After having a career night
against Cal and showing just what she's capable of, Thea Lemberger had a quiet
follow-up against Stanford. But the importance of the sophomore guard to this
team hasn't been lost on Close.
"Thea is one of the most
efficient players on our team and ends up being one of our best defenders,
meaning she anticipates well and stays in her defensive stance," Close
said. "I'm a big believer of needing your best players and your point
guards to be the hardest workers, and I'm hardest on Thea about that. I hold
her to the highest standard, and she wants to become an elite-level point guard.
"Honestly, I think she's the
most-improved guard in the conference as I've watched film, but I'm not holding
her to the most-improved-guard standard, I'm holding her to the standard of who
she wants to become."
The leaps have certainly been many
for Lemberger, who averaged just 7.7 minutes in 14 games as a freshman last
season, and it'll be interesting to see how her game evolves by season's end.
As of now, tab Lemberger as the proverbial X-factor of a young group.
A Peek at the Wildcats
Arizona hasn't looked too shabby
thus far this season, having compiled an 11-2 overall record, and will be
motored by its guard play. The Wildcats have three guards in Davellyn White
(18.9 points per game), Candice Warthen (16.8 ppg), and Shanita Arnold (8.9
ppg, 5.1 assists per game) who generate a brunt of the offense and will be
looking to push the ball.
"It'll be a battle of styles;
Arizona is a good team that wants to have quick shots and lots of possessions,
and we want to have a teamwork game," Close said.
One other note: This marks a
homecoming week for freshman guard Moriah Faulk, who hails from Phoenix. It's a
situation that Close hinted could play a significant hand in how the Bruins
"Moriah knows a lot of those
players, and sometimes the homecoming brings out the best in players,and other
times, they play too big or press too hard," Close said. "I know
she'll be focused, so my hope is that she'll make some marked improvement this