Much has been made of the UCLA basketball progams’ move back to Pauley Pavilion. The historic home court offers an electric environment that few others can.
However, the women’s basketball team proved in just its second game of the season that it doesn’t need home to feel comfortable on the court.
In Oklahoma on Wednesday, the Bruins took an 86-80 win over the No. 11 Sooners.
“It’s a huge win,” coach Cori Close said.
“It means a lot to us because of how much respect we have for them.”
UCLA took control of the game early on, and though it was often a tight game, the Bruins rarely surrendered their lead.
“Well, even though we did try to make it interesting at the end, each team had runs and we had to sustain. … That showed so much about our maturity and it was great,” Close said.
Whenever Oklahoma would get a big run, UCLA was quick to retaliate.
“We were so physical, there’s a huge mentality part to that. … We were aggressors for 40 solid minutes; our team really knew that they belonged,” Close said.
Close noted that her team’s maturity and confidence was especially evident during time-outs.
When she listened to her team talk, the players would not look back at their errors but instead look forward to the runs they needed to make in return.
“We were focusing on just not harping on the past, playing present. We acknowledged what they did and whether we could have a great next possession,” said junior guard Thea Lemberger.
Lemberger led the Bruins with 18 points on the night. Every single player on the Bruins’ roster got a chance to jump into the game at some point, showing a variety of depth in their numbers.
For senior forward Alyssia Brewer, who is playing her first year in blue and gold after transferring from Tennessee, it was a great opportunity for the new team to show what they can do.
Going on the road is never easy, and to go out and get a statement win in its second game of the season meant a lot for UCLA going forward.
“It’s a stepping stone for us,” Brewer said. “We can look back and see that we could play our game. … It’s a game we can look at every time, we can come back to that.”
And even though the UCLA squad handily upset a renowned Oklahoma team, to Close, this game was not about the effect on their national presence.
“What I really value more than what it means in the big picture is what it showed for us mentally,” Close said.
“We missed something like 18 layups and 12 free throws, and we still won. … It does so much to get a road win like this early.”
The Bruins had a rough year in 2011-12, and to UCLA, the statement win over the Sooners might allow them to get some more looks from those who have paid little attention to them.
“I think it’s a great win; it was really huge for our team,” Brewer said. “People underestimated us, and this was a big statement.”