The Wildcats never recovered from the Bruins’ blistering first quarter.
No. 8 UCLA women’s basketball (20-4, 11-2 Pac-12) jumped out to a 19-7 lead and limited Arizona (6-18, 2-11 Pac-12) to just 18.8 percent from the field in the first quarter. Freshman forward Michaela Onyenwere eventually led the Bruins to a 69-46 victory over the Wildcats.
In the first period, Onyenwere exploded off the bench going 4-of-5 from the field in just six minutes of play. Her contribution to the Bruins’ 16-point run included four points off of her offensive boards.
“She’s been an immediate impact player for us … she’s really been a finisher for us,” said coach Cori Close. “(Onyenwere) is, first of all, always about the team and secondly, she comes in ready to work everyday in practice.”
As the freshman headed towards the bench near the end of the final frame, she received a loud cheer from the crowd as well as encouragement from senior guard Kelli Hayes.
“The senior trio, they just set the blueprint for us,” Onyenwere said. “I’ve learned a lot from them three … about what it means to work hard and to be a great leader.
Close said Onyenwere’s mindset has led to notable improvement, describing her as the team’s best finisher. The forward finished the game with 17 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, notching her third double-double on the season.
Because of early foul trouble, seniors guard Jordin Canada and forward Monique Billings combined for just 37 minutes while usually averaging a combined 62 minutes.
However, junior guard Kennedy Burke stepped up, registering 10 points and nine rebounds, taking over the point guard position while Canada was out.
“She has a knack for reading the zone rotations, especially at the top of the key,” Close said. “She’s so tall she can just pass over the top, and it’s just something you can’t teach.
UCLA’s bench outscored Arizona’s 35-12 and all 11 Bruins who played scored. Freshman guard Chantel Horvat added 5 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
The Bruins out-rebounded the Wildcats 53-29, their best rebounding performance in Pac-12 play so far. UCLA also had more offensive rebounds than Arizona did defensive rebounds.
But Close believed UCLA fell short of completely executing its game plan.
UCLA shot 50 percent in the first quarter, but ended the game shooting just 38.8 percent from the field.
“We need to finish in the paint. It’s hard to get the ball in the paint, especially against a team this packed in their zone. So when you get it there … you’ve got to be able to deliver,” Close said. “Sometimes today, I thought the score was a distraction,”
With seven turnovers in the first quarter and 15 total in the game, Close said the Bruins struggled to read the Wildcats’ zone defense.
“They weren’t in the way of our passing lanes to swing the ball from side to side, so we really need to do a better job of making the simple pass,” Close said. “If we made their zone shift, and made them play side to side, and made the simple pass to make their defense move, we’ll have great shots.”
Looking ahead to No. 25 Arizona State (17-8, 8-5), Burke said a key will be being decisive on offense to limit turnovers.
“It’s (going to be about) knowing when to feed the post,” Burke said. “Because I think we had a lot of turnovers just trying to get the ball inside.”
Arizona State fell to USC (16-8, 6-7) with a score of 77-62 on Friday night, and will visit Pauley Pavilion Sunday at 1 p.m.