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UCLA women’s basketball gears up for Cal, Stanford after difficult week of play

Sophomore guard Kiki Rice looks to pass the ball on court. Rice scored a career-high 25 points against the Cougars. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

Women's Basketball


California
Friday, 7 p.m.

Berkeley
Pac-12 Los Angeles
Stanford
Sunday, 1 p.m.

Stanford
ESPN2

By Lauryn Olina Wang

Feb. 1, 2024 2:27 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 1 at 11:30 p.m.

Three consecutive ranked contests on the road. Three games in a one-week span. A homestand sans their leading scorer.

The past two weeks have been a grind for the Bruins.

And the conference slate keeps on stacking.

Back in action in the Bay Area, No. 7 UCLA women’s basketball (16-3, 5-3 Pac-12) will be on the road for a pair of contests against California (13-8, 3-6) and No. 4 Stanford (19-2, 8-1) on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, respectively. The Bruins, undefeated through their first 11 games of the season, have dropped three of their last five games.

The Bruins will battle the Golden Bears first, who are 11-4 in Haas Pavilion this season, but most recently lost to the Pac-12’s last-place team in Arizona State. Meanwhile, Sunday’s contest in Palo Alto presents a reunion between sophomore Lauren Betts and her former team, but it is unknown whether the Stanford transfer will suit up. Betts garnered limited minutes last season at Stanford, sitting behind 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year forward Cameron Brink on the Cardinal’s depth chart.

Graduate student guard Charisma Osborne addressed questions about UCLA’s game plan without Betts on Wednesday. Osborne emphasized the importance of dominating the glass without the help of the 6-foot-7 center.

“Continuing to rebound, that’s just been a really big emphasis for us, especially with Lauren not being here now,” Osborne said. “With Lauren being in, you get away with a lot of things and not rebounding because a lot of the time she’s right there, so really emphasizing … the things that we probably should’ve been doing before.”

Prior to its homestand against Washington and Washington State, UCLA competed in three consecutive games against ranked opponents on the road – succumbing to then-No.14 USC, outlasting then-No. 3 Colorado and falling to then-No.18 Utah in overtime – all in a span of eight days.

Betts – the team’s leading scorer – was not seen on the bench for either of UCLA’s games against Washington and Washington State this past weekend in Pauley Pavilion because of undisclosed medical reasons. The home squad ultimately overcame a Washington team that kept the contest close, but came one possession short of erasing a 20-point deficit and forcing Washington State to overtime after an explosive 29-point fourth quarter.

After the late rally against the Cougars, coach Cori Close and sophomore guard Kiki Rice were visibly emotional when speaking to members of the media in the press conference.

“This one will be measured by everybody else on the outside by the end score but it won’t be measured that way for me,” Close said. “You have no idea. … I couldn’t be more proud of the fight, heart, togetherness, enthusiasm that my team showed.”

At practice ahead of the road trip, Rice said the team was able to set aside the emotional toll and hardships of the week to find a way against Washington, which wavered in the first half of the contest against Washington State. By the latter half, UCLA demonstrated its ability to claw back down the stretch with effective guard play.

Rice added that the coaching staff wants the Bruin guards to build on that progress and experience.

“One of our big focuses is attacking the mismatches, using our ball screens, getting downhill and just putting pressure on the rim,” Rice said. “That’s going to be a big key for us this weekend in order to win. … How can we bring back our guard mentality that we know we all have?”

This weekend ultimately presents an opportunity for UCLA to garner its sixth ranked win of the season.

Until then, the Bruins are seeking to reestablish their self-belief in the face of midseason adversity.

“This has been really hard – Kiki and I were talking today, and we were talking about what we need to do to earn our mojo and our confidence back,” Close said after the Washington State game. “We’ve just had some tough breaks.”

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Lauryn Olina Wang | Sports senior staff
Wang is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women’s basketball, men’s basketball, NIL and football beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women’s basketball, men’s soccer, men’s golf and track and field beats, reporter on the women’s basketball beat and contributor on the men’s and women’s golf beats. Wang is also a fourth-year history major and community engagement and social change minor.
Wang is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women’s basketball, men’s basketball, NIL and football beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women’s basketball, men’s soccer, men’s golf and track and field beats, reporter on the women’s basketball beat and contributor on the men’s and women’s golf beats. Wang is also a fourth-year history major and community engagement and social change minor.
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