When freshman guard Moriah Faulk went to the floor rolling in pain during the first half of Saturday’s game, it looked as if the injury-riddled UCLA women’s basketball team had been dealt a final crippling blow.
Faulk, who averages 5.7 points per game for the Bruins (7-8, 2-2 Pac-12), left the contest against Arizona State after injuring her knee.
But rather than crumbling, players stepped into their respective roles as UCLA went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 19 after Faulk’s exit. The Bruins defeated the Sun Devils 64-48 Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.
“Every time something happens, it’s just like “˜here we go again,’” said sophomore guard Thea Lemberger about dealing with injuries. “But it has been something that we are trying to take in stride. It’s obviously hard to deal with. … I think today we dealt with it pretty well.”
Coach Cori Close praised the way that the team responded to the injury as the Bruins broke open the game in the second half, leading by as much as 20.
“For the team, when it comes to responding to adversity, we have had a lot of practice at it,” she said.
“Also, we were able to get into a rhythm because we did not have any foul trouble, we had our timeouts, and we were able to play our zone.”
A night that had not started so well for UCLA quickly turned into one of the Bruins’ best performances of the year.
The usually strong ASU defense was unable to stop UCLA’s shots from falling; the team knocked down five of seven 3-pointers and shot 50 percent from the field in the second half.
“We have really been working on ball movement and player movement,” said Lemberger, who led the team with 22 points. “We just tried to stay in the game with aggressive play. Our penetration made them back off a little and I think that is why we were successful in this game.”
For junior guard/forward Markel Walker, UCLA’s offensive firepower originated from being able to grab defensive rebounds and play a quick transition game.
“We knew that defense was the key to winning today,” she said. “So we just focused on the defensive end and let the offense come along.
“Transition is our best thing so we were just rebounding and trying to kick it out to the wings. I was just pushing myself to get a better rhythm and momentum to get some good shots.”
Walker led the team with 13 rebounds and her teammates had high praise for her hustle.
“Markel played a great game today,” Lemberger said. “Today, she was a monster on the boards. Offensively, defensively grabbing everything near her.”
After stumbling against Arizona on Thursday, a definitive road win against the Sun Devils was a must for the Bruins, a team who had previously only won two away games this season.
Despite staying close with Arizona for much of the game, the Bruins choked away any possibility of victory in the final minutes of play. The team allowed the Wildcats to go on a 6-0 run to hang on for the win.
Following Thursday’s game, the players individually spent time looking at film, determined not to make the same mistakes against the Sun Devils.
“I’m most impressed with their preparation yesterday and that is what led to the victory tonight,” Close said. “The game was very meaningful because Arizona State is a very good team.”
Saturday’s victory came at an opportune time for UCLA, who are heading into next week’s rivalry game against USC.
“I think that this is definitely a good win. Playing Arizona, we were disappointed in the loss that we received,” Walker said.
“We are going to be coming off confident and it will give us some good momentum going into the next game against ‘SC.”