After a taut, no-nonsense performance against USC on Saturday, the UCLA women’s basketball team was locked in a plodding game that featured two of the most defensively stingy teams in the conference.
On back-to-back first half possessions, the Bruin guards telegraphed interior passes, which would be a recurring theme throughout the night as UCLA stumbled to a 58-46 win over Oregon State.
The Bruins finished with 21 turnovers, including a combined nine from the senior back-court duo of Darxia Morris and Doreena Campbell.
Coach Nikki Caldwell criticized the No. 10 Bruins’ effort against the Beavers.
“It’s a lack of focus and a lack of intensity with the basketball when you turn the ball over 20-plus times against a team that definitely did a good job packing it in, but didn’t press us and didn’t pressure us in the full court setting,” Caldwell said.
Offensively, the Bruins (14-1, 4-0 Pac-10) struggled to find any rhythm down low, but junior forward Jasmine Dixon did finish with 11 points and 12 boards.
The Beavers’ 3-2 zone baffled the Bruins, who relied on contested out-of-rhythm jumpers from Morris, who scored 16 points, and Campbell, who totaled 13 points, to maintain the lead.
On the inside, Beaver senior forward El Sara Greer, who finished with five blocks, patrolled the paint and neutralized the Bruin interior attack.
So scattered was the Bruin offense that upon hearing her stat line, Dixon replied with a stunned, “Really?”
“It was our own mistakes,” Dixon said. “There should be no defense that takes us out (of) our own game. We have to go in with the same intensity every game.”
The Beavers relied on versatile guards Alyssa Martin and Sage Indendi, but were contained for the most part.
When the going got tough, the Bruins were able to claw and scratch for turnovers. Off a miss late in the second half, Morris pushed the ball and found redshirt sophomore forward Atonye Nyingifa for a basket and a foul that put the Bruins up 52-41.
On another possession, Campbell sped past five Oregon State defenders and drew a foul.
Speed and superior athleticism on the defensive end were the ultimate keys to victory. Help came from all directions, as the Bruins forced 28 turnovers. At one point, Oregon State had 16 turnovers and 13 field goal attempts.
Take all that away, and UCLA perhaps would have its first conference loss.
“We didn’t play our game,” Morris said. “We didn’t have the same energy when we played against USC. We got the win, but we didn’t get a good win.”
With Saturday’s home game against Oregon, which boasts the Pac-10′s top-scoring offense, and a date with national powerhouse Stanford next week, UCLA certainly has a target on its back.
“Everybody is going to come after them with everything that they’ve got,” Caldwell said. “We can’t play like we have arrived, because we haven’t. I challenged them with a gut check and told them to look in the mirror.”