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Women’s basketball could have best start in program history following weekend games

Junior forward Michaela Onyenwere leads No. 10 UCLA women’s basketball with 19.8 points per game, including 22.25 points per game over the Bruins’ last eight contests. (Alice Naland/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's Basketball

Arizona State
Friday, 7 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion
Pac-12 Networks
Sunday, 12 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion
Pac-12 Networks

By Michael Waldman

Jan. 2, 2020 4:44 p.m.

The Bruins will take their unbeaten record into the new year.

No. 10 UCLA women’s basketball (12-0, 1-0 Pac-12) will welcome two schools from the Grand Canyon State to Pauley Pavilion, facing Arizona State (10-3, 0-1) on Friday and No. 18 Arizona (12-0, 1-0) on Sunday. The lone conference matchup for the Sun Devils and Wildcats came when they played each other on Sunday, during which Arizona prevailed over Arizona State for the first time in Tempe, Arizona, since 2000, winning 58-53.

The contests will mark the second and third conference games for the Bruins this season, after UCLA prevailed in its conference opener against USC 83-59 on Sunday. A victory against Arizona State would give UCLA its best start in program history with a 13-0 record.

Following Sunday’s win, coach Cori Close said the record-tying 12-0 start to the season was the product of all the individuals who had helped build UCLA’s program over its 45-year history.

“I think about all the people that have contributed, who have sacrificed, who have come before us, who’ve believed in our vision – and now we get to walk in that path,” Close said. “It’s with great humility, but also awareness that this is a really special place with a lot of special people who have helped us.”

Arizona State, which has lost to Minnesota, Purdue and Arizona this season boasts two double-digit scorers – forward Ja’Tavia Tapley and forward/center Jamie Ruden – while shooting 39.4% from the field as a team.

The Bruins have allowed opponents to shoot over a 40% field goal percentage only twice, but the Wildcats have made 47% of their field goals this season.

UCLA held USC to just 33.9% shooting from the field, which junior forward Michaela Onyenwere said was due to the team’s improved defense after Close called for the team to string together consecutive stops.

“(Close) challenged us, said we weren’t doing the greatest that we could,” Onyenwere said. “After that, we got three straight stops, that’s something we call a ‘kill.’ We got back to our defensive intensity, caused them to turn the ball over and get stops.”

Onyenwere – who continues to lead the Bruins in scoring, averaging 19.8 points with 7.5 rebounds per contest – has converted on 51.4% of her field goals in the last eight games. Onyenwere is averaging 22.25 points over that span, which would place her in the top 10 of all NCAA scorers if it were to be maintained this season. She is currently 18th in the country in scoring.

Arizona is one of the four remaining undefeated teams in the Pac-12 and has the best scoring defense in the country, conceding only 44.4 points per game.

Additionally, Arizona guard Aari McDonald leads the conference in scoring with 19.9 points per game while forward Sam Thomas and guard Helena Pueyo are both shooting over 40% from the 3-point range.

“(The Bruins will be) preparing mentally and physically (for both games), responding to (the USC game) and how we take care of our bodies and how we hydrate,” said redshirt senior guard Japreece Dean. “Then we go back to the film and look at what we need to work on.”

Tipoff against Arizona State will be Friday at 7 p.m., and UCLA will play Arizona at 12 p.m. on Sunday.



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Michael Waldman | Assistant Sports editor
Waldman is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's soccer, men's volleyball, women's volleyball, beach volleyball and track and field beats. He was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Waldman is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's soccer, men's volleyball, women's volleyball, beach volleyball and track and field beats. He was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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