Stanford sophomore forward Chiney Ogwumike found her sister, senior forward Nnemkadi, under the hoop for an open layup in the second half of Sunday’s game.
It was one of many easy backdoor plays for the No. 4 Cardinal during the final 20 minutes of this weekend’s rematch against the Bruins.
“We lost our focus in the second half, especially on defense,” said senior guard Rebekah Gardner.
“We didn’t respond. They were just getting layup after layup. Eventually we did make some adjustments but it was too late. We just have to learn to adjust quicker.”
UCLA kept the game close through the first half against conference leader Stanford but faded after halftime, falling to the Cardinal 82-59.
Stanford (22-1, 13-0 Pac-12) struggled offensively in the first 20 minutes of play, shooting 48.1 percent from the field and the Bruins held Chiney Ogwumike to only four points.
“I think we really followed our game plan,” said sophomore guard Thea Lemberger on UCLA’s play in the first half. “We really wanted to keep the sisters off the boards and play great transition defense. We wanted to attack them hard off the dribble. We did that really well in the first half.”
UCLA (12-12, 7-6) had scoring problems of its own in the first half but were able to take advantage of nine Cardinal turnovers to stay in the game, earning 10 points off of them.
“We forced them to play out of rhythm,” said coach Cori Close on UCLA’s execution in the first 20 minutes of play.
“Stanford is a really good team when they are playing in their rhythm. I thought we mixed our defenses pretty well and maintained a good focus.”
When Stanford exploded offensively in the second half, UCLA just could not keep up. The Cardinal shot a deadly 75 percent from the field after halftime while UCLA’s scoring percentage was an unimpressive 39.4 percent.
As the Cardinal’s playmakers began to score easy baskets in the second half, the Bruins quickly found themselves down by 10 at the 16-minute mark.
“We needed to really get up and pressure them and force them to make their plays off the dribble,” Close said. “When they are able to make their plays off the pass, we can’t guard that.”
With very few of their shots falling and unable to make crucial stops on the defensive end, the Bruins struggled to make up the deficit.
“In the second half, we were a lot more stagnant on offense. Defensively, we lost our focus so they started to pick us apart when we got a little bit tired,” Lemberger said.
“That is when they turned the game around. We lost focus for a few possessions, they went up 10 and we were in a hole for the rest of the second half.”
They managed to cut the lead to seven off of consecutive baskets but the Cardinal did not flinch. Stanford took advantage of the reeling Bruin defense, going on an 15-0 run to put the game out of reach.
The Bruins exit the Bay Area with two losses after entering the road trip on a four-game winning streak.
Although they walk away from the weekend 0-2, the matchups will provide valuable learning material for the team in the upcoming week.
“We have the whole week to get better and watch the film so we don’t have those lapses in our future games,” Gardner said. UCLA does not play again until Sunday against USC.