Jasmine Dixon came up a bit gimpy after taking a flagrant foul against the Sun Devils on Thursday, but the junior forward was more than coherent against the Wildcats Saturday.
The All-Pac-10 performer finished with 22 points and nine rebounds during the UCLA women’s basketball team’s 70-60 win over Arizona, using her deft footwork to glide around stagnant Wildcat defenders.
“I still feel that I could have worked a lot harder than what I did,” the junior forward said. “I missed a couple of assignments on the defensive end. I just have to keep working harder.”
With the win, the Bruins (18-2, 8-1 Pac-10) equaled their best start in 30 seasons.
Early on, Arizona (13-7, 4-5) tried pushing the tempo to avoid the UCLA press and attempted to force Bruin turnovers with their own version of the full-court trap.
It paid dividends in the first half, as the Wildcats shot six-of-eight from the field to take a 15-9 advantage.
The Bruins needed nine offensive rebounds as well as a few careless traveling violations called against Arizona to stay close.
Off a missed Wildcat jumper, redshirt sophomore forward Atonye Nyingifa pushed the ball down the court, feeding it to senior forward Christina Nzekwe on the left block, who immediately whipped a touch pass into the left corner where senior guard Darxia Morris buried a 17-footer to even the score at 15.
On the following possession, led by the defensive activity of Nyingifa, who flew from sideline to sideline in pursuit of the ball, the Bruins forced a shot-clock violation.
Down the stretch, the Bruins made sure of boxing out and outrebounded the Wildcats 24-9 on the offensive glass, 43-19 overall, to preserve the victory.
“By getting on the offensive glass, it gives us a whole new shot clock and another opportunity to execute offensively,” UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell said. “That was key for us, getting those second and third opportunities.”
UCLA opened the second half on a 9-2 run, capped by a Morris baseline jumper to push the lead to 47-26.
“It always happens,” Morris said. “Jasmine Dixon creates a lot of defensive attention and (commands) a double team, so that gives an open shot on the wing or in the corner.”
Yet the Wildcats would refuse to relinquish. Off a hard-slashing performance from forward Ify Ibekwe, Arizona pulled within seven points with three minutes remaining.
It was Dixon who answered with a bucket on the other end to give the Bruins a nine-point cushion, enough to propel the Bruins to victory.
“Once we have that big of a lead, we have to stay on them and not let up at all because at any point in time, a good team can come back and win,” Dixon said. “We have to play harder and not hold back against the competition.”