To make the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, a team needs a few high-profile non-conference wins, solid conference play, and a decent showing in its conference tournament.
For the UCLA women’s basketball team (10-10, 5-4 Pac-12), the situation is a bit more dire. They have few big wins outside the conference, and Pac-12 play has been an up-and-down adventure for the Bruins. Unless the Bruins can win the Pac-12 Tournament, it’s going to be a tough task to impress the selection committee.
“If you’re going to give yourself a chance in March, bottom line is you need to have your best ten games at the end of the season,” coach Cori Close said after practice Wednesday. “You need to make a great run in the conference tournament, and we really need to show we’re playing our best basketball.”
One player that Close has consistently praised and who can be relied on to put in the work is senior guard Rebekah Gardner.
“Every day is important. Every day of practice, every game,” Gardner said. “We put ourselves in this position, and we have to get ourselves out. We need to grind every day.”
If anybody needed proof of Gardner’s dedication, it was on display after Wednesday’s practice: After everyone else had left the building, Gardner stuck around, shooting three pointers.
Gardner sets the example, as the leader of this team; her words carry weight with her teammates.
Those words are somewhat light on information about the Huskies, the team’s next opponent.
That shouldn’t really be surprising, though, considering that aligns with the philosophy of UCLA’s gold standard, Coach John Wooden. His words are a great tool for any UCLA coach, and Close has used them. Gardner clearly listened.
“It’s not really about what they do, it’s about us,” Gardner said. “It’s about us coming out and playing hard, focused and together.”
Washington is in a similar position, hovering near .500 and having played less than superbly in the conference season.
Add to that a sort of reverse homecoming for one Husky, in particular ““ redshirt senior center Regina Rogers, a Seattle native but former UCLA basketball player. Yes, this game promises to be hard fought from both ends.
And that is fine with Close; in fact, that’s the mindset Close has been pushing for all season long. Recent games have seen more fight out of the Bruins, and wins have come of it.
The challenge, according to Close, has been maintaining that attitude from week to week.
The words of sophomore guard Thea Lemberger, then, should put her at ease, as any sort of tournament bid hinges upon the fight this team shows from here on out.
“Aggressive. We want to come after them, and come out really hard and aggressive to start,” Lemberger said. “We just want to jump on them as fast as we can and keep on them the whole game.”