UCLA women’s basketball has an opportunity to make a statement win this weekend.
No. 7 UCLA (6-1) will take on UC Santa Barbara (1-6) on Sunday afternoon, as the Bruins look to win their last game at Pauley Pavilion until the new year. UCLA has an impressive resume so far, with wins over No. 9 Baylor, Creighton and Kansas State. Despite the national attention, coach Cori Close is focused on what the Bruin fanbase sees from her team.
“We want our fans to feel like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t wait for another opportunity to see this team play,’” Close said. “If the fans leave with that feeling, it’ll be a good day.”
While the Bruins have an impressive record, they still have problems with turning the ball over, with 14.6 turnovers per game. While they have found ways to win, Close was not shy showing her disappointment after Tuesday’s win against UC Riverside.
“I feel bad about Tuesday,” Close said. “I don’t think we gave our fans the best look at our team.”
While the Bruins may be struggling with consistency on offense, their defense has been solid all year long, allowing just 60.1 points per game to opponents.
“I think (defense) is becoming our identity and our strength and we need to continue to believe in that,” Close said. “But on the offensive end, I’m looking for more teamwork type of shots. I want more of our baskets to come out of the flow of our offense.”
Freshman forward Michaela Onyenwere, who is shooting 53 percent from the field this season, is also taking less than five shots per game on average. Despite her efficiency shooting the ball, Onyenwere doesn’t think that her taking more shots is the solution for her team on offense.
“I know my role, and my role right now is to play hard and rebound,” Onyenwere said. “If I do that, and everyone else does their part, I think we’ll do really well.”
Senior forward Monique Billings is averaging a near triple-double this season, scoring 15.7 points and grabbing nine rebounds per game. As a senior and the team’s leading scorer, she knows how valuable her leadership is in games.
“Punch early, punch often, that’s what coach (Close) always says,” Billings said. “We just need to establish ourselves, take simple shots and not overthink things.”
Billings was also disappointed in Tuesday’s effort, and wanted to give the Bruin fans a more entertaining victory before heading out on a five-week road trip.
“I definitely want to give the fans something exciting to watch,” Billings said. “Just finish with a bang so we can go on the road with the security knowing that we took care of business at home.”