UCLA women’s basketball to head to Arizona for first conference games of season
One of only three players to come off the bench in the contest, sophomore guard Camryn Brown scored six points in 23 minutes in the Bruins’ victory against Cal State Fullerton. (MacKenzie Coffman/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Dec. 3, 2020 4:57 p.m.
Despite not having played a game on its scheduled date this season, the Bruins are embarking on their first road trip.
No. 9 UCLA women’s basketball (1-0) heads to the Grand Canyon State to kick off Pac-12 play, playing No. 7 Arizona (1-0) on Friday before finishing the weekend against Arizona State (3-0) in Tempe on Sunday.
One win away from her 200th victory with the Bruins, coach Cori Close said she made sure to give her team perspective amid an unprecedented season.
“I told the team today that this is why you came,” Close said. “This is why you sacrifice so much. This is why you have been willing to be so careful because you want an opportunity to be able to measure yourself and your growth against the best and just (be) really, really thankful for the opportunity.”
The Bruins will first measure themselves against a Wildcat team that defeated UCLA 92-66 in the teams’ last matchup Jan. 31.
Arizona also has 2020’s Ann Meyers Drysdale Award winner – awarded to the best shooting guard in the country – in guard Aari McDonald, who dropped 27 points in the Wildcats’ January victory.
McDonald is complemented by forward Cate Reese, who finished sixth in the conference in rebounding and 14th in scoring last season.
Squaring off against McDonald in the Bruin backcourt is sophomore guard Charisma Osborne, who was named to the Drysdale Award watchlist before this season and scored a game-high 31 points in UCLA’s season-opening win against Cal State Fullerton. Osborne also received Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after the contest.
“I think all of us are just really excited to be able to get that chance to run it back (after our January loss at Arizona),” Osborne said. “But going into the game, I’m just going to try to be aggressive and do what I do and play defense on (McDonald). She’s a really great player, so (I’ll) just do the best I can.”
Eight Bruins saw the floor in their season opener, and redshirt junior guard Chantel Horvat, who didn’t play more than three minutes in the victory because of an injury, will hopefully be available to play on the two-game road trip, according to Close.
To plan for Arizona and Arizona State – teams that played 13 and 11 players, respectively, in their most recent games – Close said UCLA will need to rely on players like senior forward Lauryn Miller and sophomore guard Camryn Brown against game plans like Arizona’s press defense.
Brown scored six points in 23 minutes in the Bruins’ opening contest and said she is eager to take on her increased role with a short bench in her second season.
“I feel really excited about it, just getting a chance to get in and help my team wherever they need me to,” Brown said. “Our bench, it’s small, but in a sense, we’re deep. We’re very versatile.”
UCLA’s second opponent, Arizona State, was defeated by UCLA in their last matchup Feb. 2, with the blue and gold winning 70-61 on the backend of another Tuscon-Tempe doubleheader.
The Sun Devils have bested all three of their nonconference opponents in this campaign and are led in scoring by forward Eboni Walker and guard Taya Hanson.
UCLA counters with Miller, senior forward Michaela Onyenwere and redshirt senior guard Natalie Chou, all of whom scored in the double digits in their first game this season.
As for precautions after both of the Bruins’ initial matchups were postponed because of COVID-19 concerns, Close said she is confident in the team’s safety ahead of this weekend but believes her squad can withstand more changing circumstances if they arise.
“(The team proves its resiliency) to me literally every day,” Close said. “There’s something every day, and I’m not exaggerating.”
If all goes according to the schedule, UCLA will tip off against Arizona at 6 p.m. on Friday before facing Arizona State starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday.