When Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike drove the lane on a fast break in the second half, her elbow slammed into the face of UCLA freshman guard Kari Korver, who went down immediately.
Within seconds, however, Korver bounced right back up. Even as blood oozed down her face, she didn’t flinch.
UCLA played with that same toughness for much of its match against Stanford before ultimately falling short in a 68-57 loss.
The Bruins’ shortcomings were most evident on the glass, where the Cardinal outmuscled them for a plus-seven rebounding advantage.
No. 4 Stanford (24-2, 13-1 Pac-12) set that tone early, grabbing four offensive rebounds on one possession in the first few minutes.
“I thought our team played very good defense. I thought we forced the kind of first shots we wanted to. (But) Stanford was relentless on the glass, and I thought that really was the difference in the game,” said coach Cori Close.
When the No. 17 Bruins (19-6, 10-4) took the floor for the opening tipoff, the raucous Pauley Pavilion crowd rose to its feet and roared loudly, hoping to spur a gigantic upset.
At first, UCLA responded to nearly every Stanford punch with one of its own.
There was Korver swishing in a corner three following back-to-back buckets by the Cardinal.
There was junior guard Thea Lemberger rattling home a baseline and-one floater as the shot clock expired, after five straight Stanford points.
And there was senior forward Alyssia Brewer hustling to tap a deflection off a Stanford player’s leg out of bounds for the turnover, stifling the Cardinal’s offensive momentum.
But sustaining the heavyweight fight for forty minutes was the key, and the Bruins weren’t able to rise to the challenge.
“I thought we had about a two minute segment (midway through the second half) where we made a few mistakes and we lowered our intensity and our focus, and we got frustrated,” Close said.
During that decisive stretch, Stanford’s offense caught fire, while a once-energized UCLA team fell flat, allowing a nine-point Stanford lead to balloon to sixteen points.
“I think we tell ourselves, ‘We’re going to fight no matter what, and I think that’s what we did today as a team, and it just came down to those little things and those small mental breakdowns,” said Brewer.
Still, the Bruins’ efforts on Sunday were a vast 180-degree turnaround from those on Friday against the No. 6 California Golden Bears (23-2, 12-1).
Cal harassed UCLA on defense, allowing the Bruins little separation, both on and off the ball.
“(UCLA’s) talented, they’re tough, they’re aggressive, they’re physical, I mean that’s what they do. They kind of overpower people,” said Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb.
“And we knew it was going to be important … to kind of send a message, ‘That’s not going to happen tonight.’”
It didn’t happen, as UCLA succumbed to Cal’s aggressive play. In fact, the Bruins had trouble even registering a pulse as the Bears smothered them for their worst loss of the season, 79-51.
Now, after a winless weekend against the Bay Area area schools, UCLA will play its crosstown rival USC (8-17, 5-9) tonight at the Galen Center.