Tag Archives: UCLA women’s basketball

NCAA women’s basketball: No. 14 UCLA completes comeback against Washington

IMG_2704

By: Eric He

February 14, 2016

LOS ANGELES — The thrill of making a large comeback only to fall just short has happened time and time again to the Bruins. On Sunday, they finally turned the tables.

The No. 14 UCLA women came from 17 points down to defeat Washington 63-59 at Pauley Pavilion, the largest deficit the program has overcome in 10 years.

Kelsey Plum, the nation’s second leading scorer, had a chance to tie the game in the dying seconds, but her layup rolled off the rim after she drove past defenders to the basket. With a two-point lead and possession, the Bruins hung on for the close win.

The Bruins trailed by one entering the fourth quarter, but never trailed after taking the lead at the six-minute mark, when Kari Korver knocked down a three-pointer from the left corner with a quick release to give UCLA a 52-51 lead. On the ensuing possession, Korver set up Monique Billings who made a nice up-and-under move to score down low and swing the momentum in the Bruins’ favor.

Korver said head coach Cori Close sensed she was due for a big shot: “Coach told me, ‘It’s your time, Korver.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, it is,’ and I was happy to knock it down.”

Close was pleased with her team’s effort and tenacity in fighting back.

“I loved the perseverance and steadiness that this team has showed all year long,” Close said. “Every time we’ve gone down early, we’ve found ways to steadily chipped away. Up until today, we haven’t been able to finish the drill on one of those big comebacks. It’s really big for us to finish that off.”

Jordin Canada led the way with 16 points, while Billings had the way with a double-double – 13 points and 13 rebounds – her sixth of the season. Nirra Fields chipped in 13 points as well.

IMG_2699

The first quarter was not very pretty for the Bruins, as Plum put her stamp on the game early, putting up 17 first quarter points to outscore the Bruins by herself. She fueled 11-2 and 9-0 runs in the frame as the Huskies led 26-13 after one quarter. Plum shot 7-of-10 from the field in the first quarter alone, including a three-point play that gave Washington a 26-9 advantage.

The Bruins, meanwhile, started the game cold, missing eight consecutive shots at one point and trailed by as many as 17 in the first.

But after a poor first quarter, UCLA woke up in the second, outscoring Washington 22-10 to get back in the game. Fields drilled back-to-back three-pointers from the same spot to pull the Bruins within five. That was part of an 11-0 run that cut the Huskies’ lead to just three. A nice pump fake and driving layup by Fields late in the half sent UCLA into the locker room trailing 36-35.

“We got punched in the first half, but we had to punch back,” Billings said. “That’s what we did.”

IMG_2696

The third quarter featured plenty of back-and-forth action, but both teams struggled offensively. A gradual 8-0 run by UCLA put them ahead 47-44, but a three-pointer by Plum tied the game back up again. Washington led 48-47 heading into the fourth.

Plum, after exploding early on, was somewhat subdued in the second half. She did finish with a game-high 32 points, but the Bruins were able to hold her in check in the latter stage by playing zone and making her adjust to their tempo.

“You’re never going to stop Kelsey Plum by yourself,” Close said. “It’s just not going to happen. We played their tempo in the first quarter. Once we got our tempo going, we made her play at our tempo.”

The Bruins will now prepare for a road trip to Oregon where they will take on the Ducks and Beavers on Feb. 19 and 21, respectively.

This post was originally published on T.G. Sports. 

NCAA Women’s basketball: No. 14 UCLA grinds out win over Washington State

CbD_ojeUkAEhkLX.jpg-large

By: Eric He

Feb. 12, 2016

LOS ANGELES — UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close did not mince words during her halftime sideline interview broadcast to the Pauley Pavilion crowd on Friday against Washington State. “I’m sorry fans, that was awful,” she said, criticizing her team’s lack of intensity before storming away to the locker room.

The No. 14-ranked Bruins (18-6, 10-3) actually led by four at halftime and would go on to beat the Cougars (12-12, 3-10) handily, 73-61, but the way Close described it, they might as well have lost that game.

“This was not a good night for us,” Close said. “We didn’t play with the kind of concentration and consistent effort together that we normally do. That was not the team I’ve seen all year. We’ve got to take responsibility, look in the mirror, and figure out why that took place.”

UCLA shot just 26.5 percent from the field in the first half and managed just 31 points, but picked it up by shooting at a 51.9 percent clip in the second half.

The Bruins put the game away early in the fourth quarter, extending a five-point lead to 15 with an 13-0 run after the Cougars had opened the frame with a three-pointer by Taylor Edmonson to make it a two-point game. The Bruins connected on five straight field goals, and a jumper by Monique Billings that rimmed in extended their lead to 69-54 with just under five minutes to play in the game.

As UCLA piled up the score, Washington State went on a scoring drought that lasted over five minutes and committed seven turnovers in a four-minute stretch.

Billings led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds, dominating the second half.

“There was a segment in the second half when I thought Monique was controlling the game,” Close said. “She was controlling the ball on the defensive end with blocked shots. She was getting rebounds, running the floor, setting great screens, and hitting her inside shots and jump shots. She was the player on the floor that needed to touch the ball early and often.”

Billings is third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.7 points per game.

“I just wanted to bring energy for the team,” she said. “We felt flat [and] we just needed energy.”

She was set up time and time again by Jordin Canada, who had a strong all-around around game with 11 points, eight assists, and four rebounds. This is the 51st consecutive game in which the guard has recorded two or more assists.

“As a point guard, you’ve got to know who’s hot, who to get the ball to,” Canada said. “[Monique] is consistently running and talking to me on every single play. I knew I had to get her the ball. I knew she was hot. I just played off her energy.”

Along with Billings and Canada, Kari Korver, who had 12 points, and Nirra Fields, who finished with 10, were the other Bruins to score in double-figures. It was enough to offset a valiant effort by a Washington State squad on the road, riding a six-game losing streak and holding a 7-51 all-time record against UCLA.

With Washington State down 42-36 midway through the third quarter, Pinelopi Pavlopoulou went on an 8-0 run by herself, hitting consecutive three-pointers that gave the Cougars their first advantage of the night at 44-42.

UCLA answered, though, with nine straight points with Kennedy Burke nailing a three to regain the lead for the Bruins. With the game tied 51-51 late in the third after a corner three-pointer by the Cougars’ Borislava Hristova, Billings hit a jumper plus the foul. The Bruins scored the final five points of the half to take a 56-51 advantage into the fourth.

When asked if she thought her team was going through mid-season fatigue, Close didn’t use it as an excuse.

“I absolutely think we’re tired,” she said. “But I just think that’s the nature of it. This is when you have to make the choice to do things mentally. Everybody’s mentally tired, emotionally tired. So what? Nobody really cares. Everybody’s in the same boat, everybody plays the same amount.”

The Bruins jumped ahead to an early 10-4 lead after a steal and layup by Canada. She then assisted on UCLA’s next two buckets, dishing to Korver for three and Billings for a layup to put the Bruins up 15-6.

With a six-point lead heading into the second quarter, the Bruins went on a 9-2 run to open up the score. But their 25-12 advantage was whittled down quickly by Washington State, which responded with an 8-0 spurt that included back-to-back threes by Taylor Edmonson and Mariah Cooks, and both of them would convert again before the half concluded.

In the meantime, UCLA missed 12 of its last 14 field goal attempts to end the first half, shooting under 30 percent overall, but still led 31-27 heading into the locker room.

Close concurred that this was not the prettiest of games, but lauded her team’s tenacity to grind through the mistakes.

“I like the toughness of our team,” Close said. “They hate to lose. We’ve responded every time in competitive environments. That was just an ugly game all around. It wasn’t our best. I can promise our fans [that] we will come back ready and focused on Sunday.”

The Bruins have a quick turnaround as they will face No. 24 Washington on Sunday at 11 A.M. at home.

This post was originally published on T.G. Sports.