UCLA forward Lauryn Miller (33) runs onto the court after being announced at the Pac-12 Women’s Semifinals (Omer Khan/T.G.Sportstv1)

The UCLA Bruins took a disappointing loss against the Stanford Cardinal last night. They are exiting the Pac-12 tournament with their heads held high and will use this as preparation for the NCAA tournament in a few weeks.

 UCLA recognizes its weaknesses. One of the issues the Bruins faced was having a backup plan when their scoring leaders were double-teamed. This game, UCLA lacked a counter offense. Moving forward, UCLA women’s basketball head coach Cori Close will emphasize other players stepping up when needed. She will challenge her players to take that next step. 

Close mentioned that it begins with her and that she can handle losing. She also states that Stanford played to their identity more than the Bruins played to their own identity, which caused issues throughout the game. But it’s hard for them to swallow being overpowered and not executing. 

This loss was a reality check for UCLA. It was tough for them to accept the fact they were outplayed, but Close acknowledges the fact they will come back stronger. According to Close, she says, “The Pac-12 is the best conference in the country. I can pretty much guarantee you we will come out differently for the first couple of rounds of the NCAA tournament. We will be much tougher, we will be much more together, and we will be able to execute through difficult circumstances on a higher level.” 

Close encourages her team to embrace the challenges that come with playing in the Pac12. You grow the most when you have to conquer tough things. “I’m ready to take the fruits of our labor of going against each other and go apply that to somebody else. I’m so thankful for what grinding it out has done for our team.”

UCLA foward Michaela Onyenwere (21) defends Stanford forward Francesca Belibi (5) during the Pac-12 Women’s Semifinals (Omer Khan/T.G.Sportstv1)

The Bruins do not doubt in their mind that playing in the Pac-12 conference has made them better as a team. Playing in this conference forces you to level up, it’s a grind. The competitiveness of the Pac-12 elevates teams to play at the best version of themselves with all the different styles of play. 

Coaches in this conference believe other conferences are not as prepared in terms of excellence. Close mentions, “I am very grateful for how it prepares us. Right now, of course, we are disappointed, and it stings. I don’t think anything but good can come from these environments. It’s like your dress rehearsal for the NCAA tournament. It gives you a taste of the intensity, which we require, the attention to detail, and what must happen to be able to play your best when your best is needed. The duration of the conference from a tactical standpoint is the best preparation you can ask for.” 

Michaela Onyenwere knows that they will be better moving forward, and the team is extremely motivated. She mentions that from this point, it’s win or go home. UCLA has a chance to regroup, get their minds right, and reenergize themselves. Onyenwere says, “I think this will motivate us. Because from here on out, it’s one and done. We don’t want to go home. I believe we will get better and come back stronger.”

Stanford Maya Dodson (15) defends UCLA guard Japreece Dean (24) as she drives towrds the basket (Omer Khan/T.G.Sportstv1)

Close says her final words to the media, “I appreciate you guys in covering the tournament. This has been one of the best years for Pac-12 Women’s Basketball not only on the court but also in our coverage and telling the stories of these women. As frustrated as I am in this loss I am very grateful for all the work you guys put in and the way you tell these stories. We need you, our game needs you and we appreciate you. Thank you for your work and your efforts.”