After finishing first place at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas, No. 7 UCLA women’s basketball (5-1) will play UC Riverside (1-5) on Tuesday at Pauley Pavilion, where it has some brushing up to do offensively.
In their first three games, the Bruins averaged 95.7 points per game, but saw that average dip to 65.3 points in the previous three contests. However, senior guard Jordin Canada believes their offensive struggles can be fixed.
“I think it’s just our execution, continuing to what we’re doing on the defensive end,” Canada said. “That’s reading the defense, what kind of passes to make, what kind of shots to take. That’s going to help us get into that flow of our offense.”
Canada, who averaged 17.3 points and eight assists in the first three games, also saw her averages fall. In her last three games, she saw an average of 8.6 points and four assists. She acknowledged that opponents have been changing their defensive game plan against the Bruins.
“I think it has changed a little bit. Just because now that we don’t have (former guards Nicole Kornet and Kari Korver), a lot of teams are playing more inside,” Canada said. “They’re able to pack a little bit more inside and not play as much of our shooters as shooters.”
Despite still trying to find their offense, the Bruins have been more consistent defensively with good on-court communication. UCLA held Kansas State (5-1) to 55 points and Creighton (3-3) to 63 points, both under their season averages. Coach Cori Close sees its defense getting closer to what the team is capable of.
“Defensively, I feel like we’re establishing our identity,” Close said. “We’re starting to abuse our length and our ability to switch screens, and pressure the ball, especially full-court press. I think that’s been a huge weapon for us.”
ESPN’s No. 10 recruit, freshman forward Michaela Onyenwere, credits the defense to the advice Close has given her.
“I think it comes from what (Close) has told us to just have an attack mindset,” Onyenwere said. “To have pride in defense and having our teammate’s back, and it translated to what happened during this weekend.”
Onyenwere is one of the four true freshmen this season for the Bruins’ freshman class. And through six games, Close has been using her deeper roster. The freshmen have been averaging 20.5 points, 6.5 assists and 8.6 rebounds, but Canada sees the effect they have away from the statistics.
“(They’re able) to adapt to whatever position they’re put in,” Canada said. “I think they have been very aggressive, and they come in certain games and put in the effort that we were missing in those games – whether it be hustling after rebounds, 50-50 balls, deflections.”
UCLA begins a two-game home stand by playing UCR on Tuesday night, tip-off at 7 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion.