UCLA women’s basketball doesn’t play at home again until Jan. 5, so getting a win in dominant fashion at Pauley Pavilion was exactly what Bruin fans wanted to see, as the team did not disappoint, defeating UC Santa Barbara 74-44 Sunday afternoon, after the team put together a stifling defensive performance in the second half.
The Bruins controlled the game from start to finish and kept UCSB out of the paint and forced the Gauchos to take tough outside shots, only making 16 total attempts, on 34 percent shooting.
UCLA coach Cori Close realized her team’s progression after the game, but also mentioned how difficult it is to have to prepare for another long road trip.
“It’s hard. I feel like you’re building momentum with your fan base, and then you’re gone for over a month,” Close said. “I think that’s really difficult. We don’t want people to come to our games and just be entertained. We want people to come to our games and feel connected to the experience and the journey, so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. We’re not going to be connected to them for over a month. I just wanted to say `thank you’ and we need them here.”
Close preached to her team that their defense would have to be their anchor and it surely looked like it was, forcing the Gauchos into 23 turnovers.
“I liked the passion, I liked that we played defense with our feet in our full court situation,” added Close. “We played without fouling and I thought we played pretty discipline defensive pressure.”
Monique Billings had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Jordin Canada added 14 points as well as being a pest on defense with with six steals, also adding six rebounds and five assists to her stat line.
Close took a moment to mention her two star players and touched on how important they are to the team, day in and day out.
“These two right here are our anchors,” said Close. “They get everyone’s best game plan, everybody’s best defenders, and they’re showing up, not just when it’s convenient for them, they’re showing up when it’s really really hard and I think that boats well with what we’re gonna grow into and the mentally tough team we’re gonna be.”
The Bruins shot only two-for-eleven from the three-point line, but converted on 30-points off turnovers, where UC Santa Barbara continued to give up fast break points throughout the game.
UCLA went on a 29-8 run to open up the second half, as their lead swelled to 33-points at the end of the third quarter, 60-27.
“Our older players were in and I left them in for a longer period of time and I think that was huge,” Close said. We were just a little more composed, we got more teamwork buckets, we obviously got some steal, scores situations, but I thought we scored in rhythm a lot more, it just has to do with how many stops in a row you can get.”
The Bruins held the Gauchos to only eight points in the second quarter and nine points in the third quarter, as the defensive end was definitely a bright spot for UCLA.
“The game plan was to defend the war zone, defend the 3-point line and in transition and I think we did that today,” Canada said. “Us being aggressive, us punching first, taking initiative to get them out of rhythm and I think we did that throughout the game.”
With UCLA winning their fourth-straight game since their loss to Connecticut on Nov.21, the Bruins will turn to their defensive efforts they were able to put together Sunday, and hope to see that carry with them on the road, as they are preparing to play at Oklahoma State on Friday night.
“Playing to what our standard is, which shouldn’t be playing up to our competition or playing down to our competition, it should just be a consistent, just playing to our standard,” Billings said. “I think that’s going to be important going on the road.”