Kennedy Burke said the highest priority for the Bruin’s offense on Friday will be patience.
“(We can’t) force them and (can’t) go into the spots they’ve trapped,” the senior guard said. “We have to be available on the open court, but not going far away from the ball.”
After falling to Indiana in the final seconds of Sunday’s game, UCLA women’s basketball (3-5) will host Fresno State (4-2) at Pauley Pavilion on Friday. The Bruins haven’t challenged the Bulldogs since 2004, when they outscored Fresno State 92-76.
“We have to really keep the ball out of the lane and control penetration,” said coach Cori Close. “I’m worried about taking away the 3-point line from them.”
The Bulldogs have an average of 7.2 made 3s per game, which is responsible for nearly a third of their total scoring.
“We’re going to try to defend the 3-point line, try to make them drivers so that we can rotate and have good help side,” said sophomore forward Michaela Onyenwere. “If they’re averaging seven 3s, we’re going to try to take that away.”
Fresno State guard Candice White ranks first on her team in 3-pointers made this season. White also averages 17.5 points per game and is the Bulldog’s leading scorer.
“She’s a really good scorer,” Close said. “Everybody else on their team does a really good job of spreading the floor, of being a threat, so that she has more room to drive and do her thing.”
Defensively, White has also recorded 14 steals so far in the season to contribute to Fresno State’s team average of 12.7 per game. The Bulldogs have forced 21.5 turnovers per game – over six more than UCLA tallies.
“We obviously need to take care of the ball and be meticulous with passing and catching,” Onyenwere said. “(And) being strong with the ball.”
UCLA and Fresno State closely align in points per game – 65.5 and 68.8, respectively. The teams both average 13 assists per game and are nearly equal in shooting percentage – 38.2 and 39.9 percent, respectively.
Onyenwere said the Bruins need to focus on gaining possession of the ball to take advantage of opportunities on offense.
“I need to crash the boards every single time,” Onyenwere said. “I know my team looks at me to score and that’s the role (I play).”
Onyenwere logged her second double-double of the season last week against the Hoosiers. The forward is averaging 13.1 points per game and shoots 55 percent from the free-throw line.
The Bulldogs are averaging 78.6 percent from the charity stripe – of the highest free throw percentage any team UCLA has faced this season.
Burke said the Bruins have to minimize committing fouls on defense after giving up 23 free throws to Indiana on Sunday.
“We have to play smart with our feet and not with our hands,” Burke said. “Honestly, if we didn’t foul as much as we did the last game, we would’ve beaten them by a nice amount.”