For the first time in over a year, the Bruins enter a matchup as a top-10 team.
After climbing a spot in the AP poll, No.10 UCLA women’s basketball (8-0) will take on Pacific (6-2) on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion. The matchup will mark the end of a three-game road trip for the Bruins.
“We haven’t been playing well the last couple of weeks, and we need to be sick of that,” said coach Cori Close. “I’m really interested to see if we want to (play defense) at a top-10 level, if we want to rebound at a top-10 – then I’ll like the rankings.”
Pacific is coming off an 80-70 loss to Cal State Bakersfield, which snapped its five-game winning streak.
The Tigers are led in scoring by forward Brooklyn McDavid, who is averaging 19.6 points per game, including a 32-point performance in Pacific’s loss at then-No. 7 Oregon State earlier this season.
Pacific also boasts the reigning West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year in guard Valerie Higgins. After averaging just over three steals per game last season, she has averaged just under three this season. As a team, the Tigers average 10.5 steals per game – one of the highest by any Bruin opponent so far this season.
“They’re really long, and they get into the passing lanes – they make you think about whether you can get the ball to the paint,” Close said. “If we hit outside shots, it’s OK. But if we struggle shooting the basketball – like we did against (Cal State) Northridge – it’s going to be very important that we’re able to still hunt for the paint and not settle for outside shots.”
In its 58-44 victory over CSUN, UCLA shot just 14% from 3, down from their 27% for the season, which is lower than any of UCLA’s averages over the last five seasons.
Redshirt junior guard Natalie Chou, who has shot a team-high 34% from beyond the arc, made only one of her seven 3-point attempts against the Matadors, a fourth-quarter triple that extended the Bruins’ lead to double-digits.
After coming off the bench three games in a row, Chou returned to the starting lineup against CSUN in place of injured redshirt sophomore guard Lindsey Corsaro. In her fifth start of the season, Chou scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds in 30 minutes.
Regardless of whether she starts or comes off the bench, Chou said her role doesn’t change.
“One thing I’m really trying to focus on is to be an energy-giver,” Chou said. “(I’m) always giving energy – either if it’s off the bench or starting – (I) just focus on trying to help my team win.”
UCLA welcomed back senior forward Ally Rosenblum on Dec. 7. After playing over 30 games in her first two years as a Bruin, the senior missed all of the 2018-19 season because of a back injury.
In 11 minutes against CSUN, Rosenblum put up three points, one block and one steal while serving as the backup post.
“I’ve been waiting for a while to be back with my teammates and they’ve been super supportive,” Rosenblum said. “My first game back was amazing because of the support I had from everybody. I just love my teammates a lot, so it’s been great to play with them.”
Tipoff between UCLA and Pacific will be at 2 p.m.