Freshman guard Kari Korver hoisted up a three-point shot from the corner late during Monday’s practice. The moment the ball left her hands, Korver could see the shot was off. She rushed forward, hoping to rebound her own miss and dove to the ground, wrestling for the ball.
This is the level of intensity UCLA women’s basketball played with in its road win over Oklahoma last week and the level they must maintain this weekend as the team prepare for tough challenges in No. 5 Notre Dame (3-0) and Princeton (2-1).
“We had more focus, we were more physical and I’ll be interested to see how committed we are to that process leading into an opportunity like Notre Dame, how hungry we are,” said coach Cori Close.
The Bruins certainly looked hungry in their win over the No. 13 Sooners a week ago. While that win gave the Bruins a boost of confidence, they are still hoping to build off their success so far.
“It was a good win and it did give us some confidence that we’re getting better day by day, but it’s a grind every day,” said redshirt junior forward Atonye Nyingifa. “So new game this upcoming week and it doesn’t matter what we did in the past, it’s how we prepare right now this week.”
By knocking off Oklahoma, UCLA (2-0) demonstrated how dominant a team it can be when it executes its game plan.
“I really like our ability on the rebounds. I think that was going to be a determining factor, and I thought we didn’t do very well in our first two games with that, and I thought we took a huge step up (against Oklahoma),” Close said.
Rebounds will again be key for UCLA, as they hope their post players can take advantage of Notre Dame’s shorter four-guard lineup.
But since two of those four guards are among the nation’s top players, slowing them down will be no easy task.
“Everybody knows that Skylar Diggins is one of the top guards in the country, so our focus is contain her, contain their bigs and just do what we do best, which is rebounding and push it in transition,” said redshirt senior forward Jasmine Dixon.
After beating a top-ranked opponent last week, UCLA has now earned the No. 19 spot in the polls. While they appreciate the recognition, the Bruins aren’t too interested in the rankings.
“To be honest with you, I hate it, because I think rankings is just a bunch of people who voted who watched us play Oklahoma,” Close said.
“It has nothing to do with what makes us better or worse, it has to do with we have a bigger target on our back now.”
But after a disappointing season a year ago, playing with a target on their backs is just how the Bruins like it.