For a time Monday night, it looked like the UCLA women’s basketball team was in trouble against a passionate Loyola Marymount team. Luckily, that time was very brief.

After going cold midway through the first half, the Bruins regrouped, putting in a strong effort to defeat the Lions 73-52 at Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins started hot from the outset, but went cold after forward Jasmine Dixon picked up her second foul early in the first half. With that, the momentum shifted, and the Lions slowly began to regain ground. With the visitors heating up, UCLA needed a closing flourish to take a 37-35 lead into the locker room at half time.

“I think we had Markel Walker really step up and help us,” said UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell. “But we also had Doreena (Campbell) back in business in the second half, and that allowed us to have more weapons on the floor,” she added about the junior point guard.

Despite that lapse, the win was largely the result of an intensified defensive effort. With a plethora of substitutions, Caldwell managed to keep her players fresh, and it showed in the second half. Walker, a freshman forward, scored the first six points of the second half and UCLA’s defense clamped down. The Bruins allowed only 5 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and just 17 after the break.

It was an effort that Caldwell and her team were proud of, and a good launching point for the conference campaign. With tougher opponents on the horizon, Caldwell knows that her squad must get into a habit of locking teams down in the second half.

“I told them at halftime that they really need to think about how they want to be remembered going out in 2009,” Caldwell said. “I thought they did a great job of that. We’re going to take it one Pac-10 game at a time, and we appreciate all the support.”

Walker had an outstanding night offensively, leading UCLA with 20 points. With the Bruins needing a boost after an up and down first half, it was Walker that took control.

“Coach talked about playing inside-out,” she said. “I was playing well in the first half so coach was looking to get the ball to me more. Because we’re a small team, we know we have to play scrappy, and that’s what we did.”

Campbell also had a solid game, pitching in 14 points, while fellow-junior guard Darxia Morris added 11 of her own. With the Bruins using their deep bench to their advantage, Monday’s win was just the kind of balanced effort that the players have been looking for.

“We know that we are confident. We’re trying to win a Pac-10 championship,” Morris said. “With that being said, we still need to have daily improvement, work hard every day.”

It was the final game of the non-conference season for the Bruins, who open up Pac-10 play Friday at Arizona