Bruins to battle top-ranked Ducks with chance to become top Pac-12 team
Junior forward Michaela Onyenwere of No. 7 UCLA women’s basketball was recently named to the John R. Wooden Women’s Late Season Top 20 Watch List, which includes the top 20 candidates for the John R. Wooden Women’s Player of the Year Award. (Joy Hong/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Friday, 8 p.m.
By Jon Christon
February 14, 2020 9:33 am
One of the three best teams in the nation is making the trip to Westwood with first place on the line.
In its first home game since Jan. 26, No. 7 UCLA women’s basketball (21-2, 10-2 Pac-12) will face No. 3 Oregon (22-2, 11-1) on Friday with a chance to overtake the Ducks as the top team in the Pac-12.
“This is why we came to UCLA – to play these big games against top-five teams,” said junior forward Michaela Onyenwere.
The matchup between the Bruins and the Ducks will feature a faceoff between two of the nation’s best players, Onyenwere and Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu – both of whom were named to the John R. Wooden Women’s Late Season Top 20 Watch List, which represents the 20 finalists for the John R. Wooden Women’s Player of the Year Award.
Onyenwere ranks in the top 10 in the conference in scoring and rebounding, with a team-high 19.9 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Ionescu ranks in the top five in the conference in points, rebounds and assists per game, with 17.3, 8.8 and 8.5, respectively.
Assistant coach Tony Newnan said Oregon’s success goes beyond Ionescu.
“Obviously, (Ionescu’s) the ultimate weapon in college basketball,” Newnan said. “But (forward Ruthy Hebard is) one of the greatest post players to play in the last decade and (forward) Satou Sabally is one of the top four draft picks in the WNBA possibly. They’ve got a three-headed monster of greatness.”
Hebard has averaged 16.5 points per game to go along with a team-leading 9.3 rebounds per game, and Sabally has averaged 16.3 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. Both players are on the Late Season Wooden Watchlist as well.
As a team, the Ducks lead the conference in points per game with 85.9 – more than 10 points higher than any other team in the conference.
Redshirt senior guard Japreece Dean said rebounding and scoring will be keys for stopping the Ducks’ offensive attack.
“When we offensive rebound and we score, that helps us set our defense and get the ball stopped,” Dean said. “But it’s going to be a game of runs and they’re going to make shots. It’s just about trying to nip those runs in the bud so they don’t get momentum.”
Despite being the third-highest rebounding team in the conference, UCLA has been out-rebounded in its last three games, including a minus-16 rebounding margin in its overtime victory over California (9-14, 1-11) on Sunday.
Oregon, on the other hand, ranks fifth in the conference in rebounding and has out-rebounded its opponent in seven straight games.
In their two losses against the Ducks last season, the Bruins were out-rebounded by a combined margin of 19 boards. In the one game it won, UCLA grabbed one more rebound than Oregon.
“(Rebounding) is just about mindset – it’s a choice,” Onyenwere said. “We will be undersized the rest of the season, so we just have to find ways to continue to get better and continue into every game with that mindset.”
Newnan said last year’s results will serve as motivation this time around.
“When two great teams meet, one of the teams is going to lose,” Newnan said. “Unfortunately we’ve lost a couple of them, and I think that keeps us motivated to fight for the next one.”
Tipoff between the Bruins and the Ducks will be at 8 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion.