Women’s basketball coach Cori Close had one demand for her players on Tuesday night – to execute.
Close said the No. 7 Bruins (6-1) have struggled to execute plays when a player checks out on offense lacking awareness or concentration, leading to a domino effect consequence.
“We’re just late on all those awareness plays and as a result, you move a little bit at the last second to set a moving screen, (committing an offensive foul),” Close said. “I worry a lot about live ball turnovers.”
UCLA is allowing about 60 points per contest, marking its average scoring margin at nearly 19 points a game. The Bruins’ defensive efficiency has generated the high percentage shots that they have been struggling to create in the front court, but Close admits that careless mistakes are hurting the team so far this season.
“When you miss layups and have offensive fouls, I feel bad for the fans,” Close said. “It’s not a very fun game to watch.”
UCLA is averaging 14.6 turnovers a game compared to last season’s 11.8. Close said that she believes the team’s over dribbling is a contributing factor, but senior forward Monique Billings said that the team just needs to stop overcomplicating things.
“I know for myself personally, I tend to (miss shots) sometimes when I’ll make extra moves when I don’t need to (even though) I can just take the first open shot,” Billings said. “So just simplifying the game (will make) things easier for us.”
After averaging a double-double last season, Billings has the potential this season to reach that mark once again, averaging 15.7 points and nine rebounds through seven games. The former Team USA member has never missed a game since an injury in her senior year of high school and has started in 78 games as a Bruin.
While other teams are successfully defending the Bruins’ perimeter shooting, UCLA’s squad continues to work towards its new identity this season – attacking the paint.
“It was a big deal to me that we at least attempted to have an emphasis of what we were trying to grow on today,” Close said following Tuesday’s 68-48 win against UC Riverside. “We want to get the ball and attack the paint.”
Close added while the Bruins are getting good looks from behind the arc, execution is still missing. UCLA is attempting nearly 20 3s per game, but only converting 31 percent of them.
“Everyone is going to give us 3s,” Close said. “But we are not making them at a high enough percentage to be able to settle for those kind of shots.”
Being two of three seniors on the team, guard Kelli Hayes and Billings act as mentors for the developing freshman class in order to reach their visions of execution.
“Implementing (execution) with the younger and older players, it’s not just one or the other,” Hayes said. “It’s all of us, we have to work together.”
Billings agreed with Hayes on the importance of helping the younger players adjust to the collegiate learning curve.
“I’ve been in their shoes before and I know it can get frustrating,” Billings said. “I’ve been trying to be a voice in their ears and just trying to bring energy as much as I can.”