Monday, October 23

UCLA women’s basketball team pounds Oregon State 70-44

Talk about a change of pace. Two days after sprinting their way to a rout against speedy Oregon, the UCLA women’s basketball team slowed down the tempo and the opposition in an easy 70-44 win over the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday afternoon.

It was an ugly beginning for the Bruins (14-6, 7-2 Pac-10), who went over four minutes without a point as the last-place Beavers (9-10, 1-8) ran out to a 6-0 lead. But all is well that ends well, and with the victory UCLA extended its winning streak to four games. One game after featuring a full-throttle, full-court attack, UCLA reverted to its old style of pressure defense, solid rebounding and a methodical, efficient offense.

“The first four possessions, we turned the ball over, and we can’t establish offensive execution when we turn the ball over,” said UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell.

With the Bruins struggling out of the gate, Caldwell turned to her bench for an offensive spark. Sophomore guard Rebekah Gardner obliged, nailing a trio of three-point baskets in the opening half to push her team back from the early deficit.

“Rebekah hit some big shots for us and we started picking things up on the defensive end,” Caldwell said.

By the time the opening 20 mintes were over, UCLA had held the Beavers to just 14 points and were well on their way to another home win. It was Gardner’s shooting that accelerated the offense, which began to hit its stride against a hapless Beaver defense.

“I want to do anything that makes our team better,” Gardner said. “We know we have a lot of people that can score.”

On the other end of the floor, the defense put on a dominating show for the home crowd. The Bruins finished the afternoon with 13 steals to go along with 8 blocks. Meanwhile, the guards managed to shut down Talisa Rhea, the focal point of the Oregon State offense. The trapping and pressure up and down the court were too much for the Beavers to match, creating turnovers and a wealth of easy buckets for the home team. It was the type of effort that Caldwell asks from her team, but the coach wasn’t entirely pleased.

“We have to remain focused,” Caldwell said. “I told our team that they only played for about 28 minutes. In the beginning four minutes and the last eight minutes they were too lax.”

Markel Walker was outstanding for a second consecutive game, consistently finding opportunities for baskets, creating steals on defense, and scoring the ball with efficiency. On the whole, though, the scoring totals indicated a balance that has become customary for this UCLA team. Six players finished with at least seven points and the Bruins won easily without the typical scoring contributions from guard Doreena Campbell (no points) or forward Jasmine Dixon (10 points).

“If one person is not on, we have other players that can pick up the slack,” Gardner said. “That just makes our team better.”

With the win, the Bruins closed out the first half of their conference schedule on a high note. UCLA remains in third place with a 7-2 conference record. The road games will get tougher as the season enters the home stretch. This week, the Bruins head north for their annual trip to the Bay Area, typically one of the toughest trips of the season. But coming out of the weekend with some momentum and a winning streak is a good sign, senior guard Erica Tukiainen said.

“Coaches really want us to be coaches on the floor,” Tukiainen said. “We’re students of the game, studying what is working on the court and making adjustments. We have more maturity right now.”

UCLA faces No. 2 Stanford, who have won 40 straight home games, on Thursday in Palo Alto. The Cardinal escaped with a 65-61 victory on Jan. 10 in Westwood, something the Bruins will have on their mind this week in practice.

“It’s going to be about us maintaining our level of intensity for an entire practice,” Caldwell said. “We’re going to look to improve defensively and with board-play. Offensively, we’re going to sharpen up our action and look at why we are turning the ball over. If we can take care of the basketball, we’re going to have a much better chance to be victorious.”

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