Red light. Green light.
Not to be mistaken with the peek-a-boo-style children’s game, these are the terms used to describe the individual opponents of the UCLA women’s basketball team.
The color coding system is not hard to understand. If the No. 12 Bruins (12-1, 2-0 Pac-10) are defending against someone who can shoot the ball well, that opponent is referred to as “green,” and they up the defensive pressure. If the opponent is deemed “red,” the Bruins will be more inclined to let her take an open outside shot.
With half of the season behind them, the Bruins have already had to face a good deal of “green light” players, more specifically at the guard position. So when rival USC (10-3, 2-0) comes to Pauley Pavilion on Saturday with their trio of talented guards, the Bruins will have to summon up a strong defensive performance.
“We’ve had the opportunity to play against some good guards,” coach Nikki Caldwell said. “When you look at (USC), they go as far as their guards go with (junior Ashley) Corral, (junior Briana) Gilbreath and (redshirt senior Jacki) Gemelos. The ball’s going to be in their hands a lot, so we are treating everybody as “˜green,’ where we want to bring pressure.”
The constant pressure the Bruins are planning to place on the Trojans is well-deserved. All three of USC’s starting guards are in the top 15 in scoring in the Pac-10.
“We’ve been in that position before where we had to bring the heat to the ball, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Caldwell said. “That’s who we are.”
At a crucial time of the year when conference opponents get a first look at each other, both of these teams happen to be playing at a high level and Saturday’s game could give an early indication as to who will be among the favorites to win the Pac-10.
After its 11-game win streak was snapped by LSU in late December, UCLA won its next two games against the Washington schools in convincing fashion, out-scoring its opponents by a combined 37 points.
The Trojans’ season started out with a few understandable losses to the likes of then-No. 6 Duke and then-No. 4 Xavier, but they enter Saturday’s matchup riding a season-best six-game win streak.
With all of the hype of a USC-UCLA game swirling around, and the presence of former USC and WNBA great Lisa Leslie at practice to scout for the game’s televised broadcast, the Bruins are trying to get back into the routine that won them 11 straight.
“We understand it’s a big game, but we still prepare for (USC) like we do for any other game,” junior guard Rebekah Gardner said.
Taking things a little further and unafraid to acknowledge the importance of a hot USC team coming into UCLA’s gym, senior guard Darxia Morris seems ready.
“To me, it’s a big game,” Morris said. “That other school over there … it’s going to be a challenge because they’re going to come with their “˜A’ game. I know everyone is excited and hyped for this game. So we’ll see who’s big in L.A.”