Heading into last weekend, UCLA women’s basketball was riding a wave of momentum, having won six straight games, including its first four Pac-12 games. But after a pair of devastating losses to Stanford and Cal, that wave ended in a wipeout.
UCLA (13-4, 4-2 Pac-12) looked outmatched against Stanford in a 75-49 defeat on Friday before falling short of a comeback against Cal on Sunday, losing 70-65.
Yet despite the tough losses, the Bruins are confident in their abilities as a team.
“We have so much talent. I believe we’re the most offensively talented team in the Pac-12,” coach Cori Close said.
The statistics appear to support Close’s claim. No. 19 UCLA averages 71.4 points per game, second only to Cal in the conference. The Bruins also lead the Pac-12 in assists, with 16.1 a game.
Clearly, talent isn’t a problem for UCLA.
What has been a problem this season is using that talent consistently, as well as combining it with strong defense. Against Cal, UCLA played a strong defensive second half, but their poor defense in the first half created too large of a deficit for them to overcome.
And it’s in those areas – defense and rebounding – that Close thinks the team has the most room to grow.
“That’s what’s controllable, those are things that … you can count on and I think those are the kind of areas as we grow through Pac-12, that’s the consistency I’m looking for,” Close said.
“I’m not looking for us to score 80 points a night; I’m looking for that consistency.”
Beyond strategy, Bruin minds have to be in the right place to improve their steadiness.
“That’s just mentality. We just have to stay focused and we have to keep telling each other that we have to put two halves together,” said senior forward Alyssia Brewer.
“Just being able to go out the full 40 minutes, once we have that I think we’ll be a very good team.”
One method the Bruins are taking to improve their defensive consistency is simply talking more. In fact, they have spent time in recent practices just working on their on-court communication.
“It’s very important, especially when we have to rotate in our defense and cover each other,” senior guard Mariah Williams said.
“It’s hard to see what’s going on, but when you have a teammate that’s talking and letting you know where she is and what her player is doing, then it gives you an idea of what you need to do, so when someone talks it’s just helpful.”
UCLA hoped last weekend’s games would give them an idea of where they needed to improve as the season progressed.
While the outcomes weren’t in the Bruins’ favor, they hope to learn from the games.
“It’s just another opportunity to get better and grow as a team,” Williams said.
Contact Kevin Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org.