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 fare.
"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 week."