Today, 7 p.m.
Follow GameTracker on UCLABruins.com
After a split weekend, No. 11 UCLA continues on into the heart of its Pac-10 schedule against a formidable Arizona State team.
Four seasons ago, Dymond Simon had all the makings of the next destined-for-stardom player in the women’s college basketball game.
Two season-ending ACL injuries later and the flair and hoopla have long faded.
But when the No. 11 UCLA women’s basketball team (16-2, 6-1 Pac-10) plays host to Arizona State tonight at Pauley Pavilion, the Sun Devils (12-5, 4-3) will still feature the redshirt senior guard as the primary cog in their offensive attack.
Just ask UCLA sophomore guard Mariah Williams.
“We have to cut the head off the snake, and she’s definitely the head of the snake for that team,” Williams said.
For Simon, the derailments couldn’t have been any more demoralizing. Prior to her first knee injury during her freshman season, Simon was third on the team in scoring and poured in a career-high 24 points in an ASU win over Washington State on Jan. 4, 2007. She would then tear her ACL again toward the end of her junior season, forcing her to redshirt all of the following year.
But according to UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell, Simon’s time off the court may have very well made her more potent.
“When you have kids who have sat out a year, typically their knowledge grows, and they have a different hunger for competition,” she said.
“(Simon) has been doing what she can do, and all that she can do, to help position her team to be the best it can be. She’s definitely going to be a key matchup for us.”
But the UCLA guards won’t be the only Bruins with their hands full come Thursday. The Sun Devils’ front court boasts size and length in six-foot-five senior forward Becca Tobin, a fact that UCLA hasn’t overlooked despite Simon drawing plenty attention.
“We’ve got to distract the guards and have our guards put ball pressure on them so that they can’t see the post,” junior forward Jasmine Dixon said.
“And as far as us (forwards), we just have to deny and front the post, because we know that (their bigs) are taller than ours. We have to work extra hard and use our footspeed to get around.”
But whether it be the speed and quickness of Simon or the towering presence of Tobin that the Sun Devils hope will increase their chances of stealing a victory in Westwood, the Bruins remain steadfast in their approach, confident that their execution on the defensive side of the ball will be instrumental in continuing to add onto the win column.
“A lot of the times in basketball, defense creates offense,” Williams said. “If we can continue to come every night with our defensive pressure, turn teams over and control the boards, then the offense will be created for us, and we shouldn’t have a problem.”