UCLA faced its third consecutive top-25 team and saw its 20-game Pac-12 home win streak snapped Sunday.
After clinging to a one- or two-possession lead through the majority of the fourth quarter, a triple by Oregon guard Lexi Bando sealed the team’s late victory – UCLA never made a field goal in the game’s final three minutes.
No. 14 UCLA women’s basketball (11-4, 2-2 Pac-12) dominated No. 16 Oregon State (11-4, 2-2 Pac-12) 84-49, but fell to No. 9 Oregon (15-2, 4-0 Pac-12) 70-61 in its two-game home stand, after returning from a five-game road trip.
Against the Ducks, the Bruins both started and ended the game slow on the offensive end. UCLA was held scoreless until the 3:16 mark in the first quarter, until senior guard Jordin Canada knocked down a right elbow jumper.
“We missed 20 shots in what we call the war zone,” said coach Cori Close. “We struggled against their zone, it slowed us down and (they) controlled the pace of play.”
UCLA trailed the entire first half against the nation’s third-best shooting team, averaging 50 percent from the field.
“I talked to (assistant coach Shannon Perry at halftime) and she just said to relax,” said senior forward Monique Billings. “I was playing kind of tight, and I wasn’t playing free.”
Billings finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, her eighth double-double this season.
The Bruins held the Ducks to 43.1 percent, but only shot 30.9 percent themselves. Close, however, was pleased with the adjustments made following halftime.
“I thought we did a lot of good things too, especially with our adjustments in the second half,” Close said. “We got the ball inside, we did a lot of good things on switching screens and limited their 3-point attempts.”
UCLA also struggled at the free throw line, making just 14-of-24. The Bruins were also outrebounded on the defensive boards 36-25.
Despite the loss to Oregon, UCLA’s defense has been its strength so far in Pac-12 play.
On Friday night against Oregon State, UCLA’s dominant defensive effort held the nation’s second-best 3-point shooting team to just 16.7 percent. The Beavers, who average more than nine triples a game, attempted just 12.
Oregon State guard Kat Tudor leads the Pac-12 in 3s and averages 13.1 points per game, but failed to make even one field goal.
On the offensive end, Close said the key was for Billings to drain her mid-range jumpers in order to eliminate Oregon State’s center, Marie Gülich, from her rebounding and shot blocking.
Billings’ 19-point performance on 8-of-12 shooting set the tone from tip-off. She notched 11 points in just the first quarter – Oregon State as a team had only scored 11.
“Phenomenal,” Close said. “(Billings) has worked all offseason on her jumpshot… before practice you’re going to see her do the same routine. She’s going to shoot those shots that she made tonight.”
UCLA saw more inside opportunities open up as a result of Billings’ sharpshooting. Redshirt junior Lajahna Drummer and freshman Michaela Onyenwere found success posting up as the forwards chipped in 10 and 12 points, respectively.
On top of that, with execution inside the paint, UCLA could rely on a new weapon – knocking down 3s. The Bruins averaged just 29.7 percent before the game.
“We’re a lot more patient,” Drummer said. “We’re making the extra pass and once they’re sinking into the paint, we’re just making that kick-out and knocking down the shot.”
The Beavers, who had opportunities to cut the deficit into single digits during the second quarter, saw that chance vanish as junior guard Japreece Dean drilled back-to-back 3s, including one as the halftime buzzer sounded.
The transfer finished with 11 points and two assists in her Pauley Pavilion debut, and improved the Bruins’ long-range shooting. UCLA drained 7-of-11 from behind the arc, a season-high mark by more than 20 percent.
“Our identity is running and attacking the paint, getting the ball in the war zone, and rebounding,” Dean said. “So we really try to emphasize that, and not just jacking up shots.”
UCLA will travel to Utah and Colorado next week to continue conference play.