Monday, October 23

UCLA women’s basketball falls to Stanford, 70-46

Sometimes, it’s just not your night. That much was true for the UCLA women’s basketball team on Sunday afternoon in a 70-46 loss to Stanford in the Pac-10 women’s tournament final.

The Bruins looked overwhelmed and overmatched for much of the contest. Offensively, UCLA was unable to get into a rhythm, hindered by the length and athleticism of the Stanford players.

“At times, we were aggressive,” coach Nikki Caldwell said. “But there’s no room for passiveness when you’re gunning for a championship, and there was passive play tonight.”

The Cardinal utilized its size advantage, turning to a pair of all-conference players to dominate in the paint. Pac-10 Player of the Year Nnemkadi Ogwumike finished with 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Senior Jayne Appel added 15 points of her own.

“I don’t know why we came out so passive,” sophomore Jasmine Dixon said. “I tried to pick that up. I don’t even know. Usually we’re aggressive, but today I just don’t think we were there mentally.”

Dixon finished with 20 points to lead the Bruins offensively. She was the only player to score in double figures for an offense that looked out of sync.

“Our offense became very choppy and very stagnant,” Caldwell said. “Patience wasn’t there. The jump shot is going to be there, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it off the first pass.”

With the loss, the Bruins finish the Pac-10 tournament in the same position as when they closed out the regular season: second place. But despite having her team’s 10-game winning streak snapped, Caldwell believes that UCLA is in a good place. The team is likely to gain an NCAA tournament bid on Monday evening.

“This team has earned anywhere from a 5-6 seed when you’re looking at what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Caldwell said. “No more than a 6 would be ideal for us.”

It was a game with few bright spots for UCLA. Several players hit the floor going after loose balls. Jasmine Dixon limped off after taking a particularly hard spill. There were more than a few unfriendly rolls on layups and free throws. Caldwell spent much of the contest visibly frustrated with the officiating. But more than anything, the Cardinal executed a more efficient game plan.

“Stanford did a great job of handling the different looks that we threw at them,” Caldwell said. “Late in the season, they’re good. It seems that they are a team that clicks on all cylinders. They understand postseason play.”

Despite the loss, two members of the Bruin squad, Dixon and freshman Markel Walker, walked away with all-tournament honors. But Walker knows that for UCLA to be successful in the postseason, her team must put forward a better effort.

“We have to learn how to play for 40 minutes,” Walker said. “Going into the tournament, playing against tougher competition, we have to put together 40 minutes.”

The Bruins will find out their next step on Monday at 4 p.m. when the women’s tournament field is announced live on ESPN. If selected, it would be UCLA’s first postseason appearance since winning the Pac-10 Tournament title in 2006. Even with the tough loss, Caldwell remained optimistic about the Bruins’ tournament prospects.

“This team has come far from the beginning of the year,” Caldwell said. “There’s still more games to be played.”

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