Tuesday, July 16

Basketball aims high with Nikki Caldwell

Women's team posts a record season behind the Pac-10 Coach of the Year's ambitious leadership

Nikki Caldwell has big dreams for the women’s basketball program at UCLA.

And those dreams involve one thing and one thing only: winning.

“I hope we’ve got some championship rings, both Pac-10 and I would love to have them experience winning it all at the NCAA level,” Caldwell said when asked about where she hopes her Bruins to be in the next five years. “I know we’re at No. 105 right now and hopefully here soon, we can add to that number and be a part of this great legacy here at UCLA.”

Caldwell and the Bruins are coming off of one of the most successful years in recent history for the UCLA women’s basketball program. Although the Bruins narrowly missed the NCAA tournament in Caldwell’s first season at the helm, this past season UCLA left no doubt in the selection committee’s mind that this team was deserving of a tournament berth.

On March 8, Caldwell’s squad moved into the Associated Press Top 25, landing in the 23rd spot. This was the first time the Bruins had been ranked nationally since the 2006-2007 season.

A day after the Bruins cracked the Top 25, the accolades began to roll in for Caldwell. On March 9, the Tennessee alum was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year by media members. That same day, Caldwell was also named a finalist for the annual Kay Yow Award, which honors the nation’s top coach. Two days later, Caldwell won the big prize, as she was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year again, this time by her fellow coaches. It was the first time in UCLA women’s basketball history that a coach has won the award.

The Bruins finished the regular season with a record of 22-7, and finished second in the Pac-10 with a record of 15-3, making it to the Pac-10 Championship final before being ousted by Stanford.

UCLA entered NCAA play with a record of 24-8, earning themselves an eight-seed. In the first round of the tournament, the Bruins defeated N.C. State, setting up a matchup with No. 1 seed Nebraska in the second round. After leading for much of the first half, UCLA came up short in their upset bid, losing to Nebraska and ending their season with a record of 25-9.

The 25 wins posted by the Bruins is the fourth most in school history, and the 15 wins in Pac-10 play is the most in school history. But Caldwell is quick to place the blame for such a successful season not on her shoulders, but on the shoulders of her players, as well as her coaching staff.

Read the full version of this story at dailybruin.com/categories/sports

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