Wednesday, September 18

Women’s basketball looks for weekend wins to climb up Pac-12 ranks

Last time against Oregon, junior forward Monique Billings dropped a career-high 30 points along with 14 rebounds and six steals. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)

Last time against Oregon, junior forward Monique Billings dropped a career-high 30 points along with 14 rebounds and six steals. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated UCLA is ranked fourth in the Pac-12. In fact, it's ranked third.

Monday night in the Pac-12 wasn’t any typical day in women’s college basketball.

No. 15 UCLA (18-5, 9-3 Pac-12) upset No. 8 Stanford, and is now third in the conference standings, in range of first place.

The Bruins now sit just two games out behind the conference-leading No. 9 Oregon State Beavers (22-2, 11-1). But depending on how the other games around the conference play out, a pair of wins this weekend against Oregon (15-9, 5-7) and Oregon State could jettison the team into first place.

Additionally, UCLA will have a chance to sweep the season series against both Oregon schools and find its first back-to-back road wins of the season.

Back in mid-January, the Bruins beat the Ducks 79-63 at Pauley Pavilion in their first matchup of the season.

UCLA was able to capitalize on its opponents’ 20 turnovers, which combined with 20 offensive rebounds and 15 steals, gave it more scoring opportunities, contributing to its eventual 16-point victory.

In the game, junior forward Monique Billings recorded a career-high 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting along with 14 rebounds and six steals. Oregon forward Ruthy Hebard responded with her own career-high 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting and nine rebounds.

“(Hebard) is a formidable foe,” said coach Cori Close. “I think the first thing for us is that we let her go to all of her strengths and comfort zone the first game. … There’s certain things we knew going into the game that she really likes to do and we let her do them. You have to that take away.”

But to do so, the Bruins will have to implement different strategies against the Ducks.

“At this point in the year, they know all of our sets. We know all of their sets,” Close said. “Who makes the better adjustments and who uses that first experience to create a better second experience are usually the teams that create more momentum going into March and more successful the second time around.”

Oregon leads the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage, converting its attempts at a .394 clip. Conversely, UCLA is last in the conference in 3-point field-goal percentage defense.

Following their contest against the Ducks, the Bruins will take on the Beavers, whose sole loss in the Pac-12 came at the hands of UCLA last month. The Beavers held onto a five-point lead heading into the final frame before the Bruins bounced back from a nine-point third quarter for the eventual victory.

Since then, the Beavers have strung together seven consecutive wins.

“They’ve earned the right to be the top team right now (in the Pac-12),” Close said. “They understand percentages and angles, and they really try to make you shoot shots you’re not as used to shooting. They do a great job with their field-goal percentage defense, and they shoot the 3 really well.”

UCLA senior guard Kari Korver played all 40 minutes in the first matchup, pairing with junior guard Jordin Canada on the perimeter to set the defensive tone.

Oregon State’s standout guard Sydney Wiese was held to just six points on 2-of-12 shooting.

“(Canada’s) ability to be just right underneath and just pressure (Wiese) for 40 minutes is a real advantage, so we make her work really hard throughout the game,” Close said.

The Bruins forced 16 turnovers, four of which came in the fourth quarter. The Bruins will look to exploit the turnover game again, where they have an average margin of +5.48 – second-best in the Pac-12.

“It’ll obviously be harder up on the road,” Close said. “Right now, Oregon State has set the standard for this conference, so it’s going to be up to us to match that standard and surpass it if we expect to win on their court.”

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