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Women’s basketball wraps up season, works toward tournament with roster edits

Coach Cori Close has led No. 8 UCLA women’s basketball to a 14-4 Pac-12 record – matching the best regular-season record of her tenure. The Bruins will enter the Pac-12 tournament as the No. 2 seed. (Axel Lopez/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Michael Waldman

March 2, 2020 11:58 p.m.

The Bruins matched the best conference record in coach Cori Close’s tenure this season, going 14-4 in Pac-12 play for the fourth time.

But after starting Pac-12 action with a 5-0 record, No. 8 UCLA women’s basketball (25-4, 14-4 Pac-12) lost four of its last 13 games against conference opponents, including a loss to unranked Washington, which is 122nd in the country in RPI.

Close said enjoyment of the game and quality of play have been linked throughout the season and especially in the latter parts of conference play.

“We wanted to have more fun playing this game,” Close said. “We haven’t been having as much fun (recently) because we know deep down that we haven’t been playing as well as we need to.”

UCLA turned the ball over 17 and 11 times in its respective victories this past weekend against Colorado and Utah, and gave away 11 possessions in its loss to Washington on Feb. 23.

The spike in the Bruins’ turnovers was a part of Close’s broader analysis of UCLA’s recent struggles against conference opponents of all records, as she said the team’s last week of practice and film-study centered around reducing unforced mistakes.

“We counted every mental error (from the Washington loss),” Close said. “It really hurt our hearts, but it also gave us hope because those are things we can really control.”

One of the changes Close made over the weekend was allotting more playing time to freshman guard Camryn Brown, who combined for 42 minutes in the past two contests after averaging 6.1 minutes per game through her first 14 games of conference play.

Brown also hit seven shots on the weekend after making just nine shots over her first 20 games of action, as her team outscored its opponents by 14 when she was on the court.

The freshman from Lewisville, Texas, said her composure in the pair of contests stemmed from the belief showed by her fellow players and coaches after she had committed more fouls than points scored leading up to the weekend.

“It was super comfortable because I knew that my teammates trust me and my coaches, and I was just going out there to just play,” Brown said.

One of those teammates is redshirt senior guard Japreece Dean, who leads the squad in minutes played during conference games and is the third-leading scorer for the Bruins in Pac-12 play.

In Dean’s final season at UCLA, the Bruins have clinched the No. 2 seed for the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas, after entering the tournament as the No. 4 seed a year ago.

Dean has only turned the ball over five times once in conference games this season, and she said she is personally not concerned with UCLA’s seeding when it takes on conference rivals at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

“Honestly, I don’t think (the Pac-12 tournament seeding) means much to me,” Dean said. “I know it’s better for us in the Pac-12 and who we play, but I’m really not too focused on where we are.”

Close will coach in her ninth conference tournament this week, and she shared the team’s mindset while heading into final weekend of the regular season.

“We’re not going to worry about anybody else,” Close said.

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Michael Waldman | Sports senior staff
Waldman is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, track and field, beach volleyball and men's soccer beats. Waldman was also a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. He is also a political science student at UCLA from Alameda, California.
Waldman is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, track and field, beach volleyball and men's soccer beats. Waldman was also a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. He is also a political science student at UCLA from Alameda, California.
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