Midterms are coming early for the UCLA women’s basketball team. A season centered on growth has seen the team find its focus as a defensive team. While the team returned from last weekend’s road trip without both wins in tow, the steps it took toward improving defensively were more rewarding than the results it brought home.
But this weekend, the Bruins will get to put that growth to the test in the face of two formidable Oregon teams.
UCLA’s Friday opponent, the Oregon Ducks (9-6, 0-4 Pac-12), boast the nation’s top-ranked offense with an average 98.1 points per game. The Ducks’ prolific offense will give the Bruins (8-9, 2-3) a run for their money.
In the face of such a potent offense, senior guard Thea Lemberger said the team will have to handle the test in Pauley Pavilion by holding on to what it’s been doing best: defense.
“That’s something that we’ve been doing a lot better in, week to week preparing for our opponent and doing a better job defensively and taking away the things that they’re good at,” Lemberger said. “It won’t be any different this week.”
Coach Cori Close echoed Lemberger’s sentiments, pointing out that an endeavor to beat Oregon at its own game isn’t a sound strategy.
“We’re not going to outscore Oregon; that’s not going to happen,” Close said. “So we have to find ways to slow them down and create stops, and our defense has to be the premise of our game plan.”
The Ducks also lead the conference in field goal attempts from beyond the arc with 485, overshadowing the next closest team, Oregon State, by almost 100 attempts. To combat this offense, the Bruins will not only have to ruffle feathers in the paint, but also incorporate new strategies to stop the Ducks from extending their offensive drives.
“They’re coming long off the rebounds because they both shoot so many threes,” Close said. “So it’s going to be so important for us that we not only get a body, but bottom line, it’s got to be a hustle game. It’s got to be quicker to the ball, dive to the floor, whatever it takes to secure the possession for our team.”
UCLA will complete this weekend’s scheduled matchups by playing the Oregon State Beavers (10-6, 2-2) on Monday.
“It’s going to be a really good test,” said freshman guard Dominique Williams. “I think this week we’re trying to take another step of growth and make our defense that much better. … They’re both very good offensive teams, so I’m just excited to see what plays out.”