Lauryn Miller said the Bruins need to be aggressive if they want to find success in their matchups this weekend.
“We know how gritty Arizona State is and (we’re) making sure we try to match that,” said the sophomore forward. “We know that they’re going to come out and fight from the start.”
UCLA women’s basketball will travel to No. 16 Arizona State (13-5, 4-3 Pac-12) on Friday and Arizona (13-5, 3-4 Pac-12) on Sunday, after dropping its fourth consecutive game to USC last weekend.
“(Arizona State is) one of the best teams in the country about guarding the paint as well as helping and taking charges,” said coach Cori Close. “(Their defense) also makes rebounding that much harder because they’re already there, they’re already cinched up.”
The Sun Devils – ranked sixth in the Pac-12 in rebounding – are averaging 40.1 boards per game while holding their opponents to of 31.9 per game.
Offensively, senior guard Kennedy Burke said the Bruins will be challenged when trying to drive.
“Arizona State is a great help defensive team,” Burke said. “Straight line drives are not always going to be there, so we have to look for the kick out for 3-point shooters.”
The Bruins are shooting an average of 27.4 percent from the 3-point line, while the Sun Devils are holding their opponents to 32.2 percent from behind the arc.
Burke said UCLA has to dominate the glass if they want a victory Friday.
“(We) have to create space by going around them, doing a swim move to get the board,” Burke said. “That’s what we’re best at, grabbing boards.”
The guard is one of the top three rebounders for UCLA, pulling down an average of 5.9 per game. Despite her presence on the boards, Burke plays an average of 32.3 minutes and is responsible for the second most turnovers.
“The biggest thing (against Arizona State) is you don’t want to have any live ball turnovers,” said Close. “You have to be able to have the toughness to screen well, to take care of the ball (and) to pass well.”
The Sun Devils averaged 10.3 points off turnovers in its three most recent contests.
“We’re going to have to hit some outside shots in order to pull them away from the basket a little bit more,” said Close. “We have to handle their pressure.”
Friday’s game marks the fifth time in their last six games that the Bruins will face a ranked team.
On Sunday, UCLA will stay in Arizona to challenge the Wildcats at the McKale Memorial Center in Tuscon.
Arizona guard Aari McDonald leads the Pac-12 in points per game – averaging 24.9 a contest. McDonald is also second in the conference with an average of 2.5 steals a game.
“In the last several years, Arizona has played much more zone than they’re playing (this season),” Close said. “McDonald’s one of the most explosive guards in the country.”
The Wildcats rank second in the Pac-12 in steals and fifth in blocks, averaging 9.3 and 3.7 per game, respectively.
Miller said that both Arizona State and Arizona will be defensive challenges over the weekend.
“In the scheme of things, they both fight really hard,” Miller said. “We’ll definitely adjust for their go-to players, but it really comes down to our fight.”
The Bruins will take on the Sun Devils on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. and the Wildcats on Jan. 27 at 1 p.m.