Tuesday, April 23, 2024

AdvertiseDonateSubmit
NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds

As March looms, UCLA women’s basketball navigates absences and mental game

Sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez prepares for a shot with the ball. Jaquez is one of three UCLA women’s basketball bigs available for its contests against Arizona and Arizona State. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Lauryn Olina Wang

Feb. 9, 2024 4:45 p.m.

The mind gym helped Lauren Betts regain her confidence on the court after her transfer to Westwood.

Now, the rest of the Bruins are relying on a similar venture into the mind gym to move forward without the sophomore center’s minutes.

No. 9 UCLA women’s basketball has managed without Betts – who is currently day-to-day for an undisclosed medical reason – the past four games, splitting its contests in that stretch and most recently enduring a blowout at the hands of then-No. 4 Stanford.

After the Bruins dropped the 20-point decision in PaloAlto, coach Cori Close opted not to blame a short bench, with sophomore forward Lina Sontag also unavailable, but rather expressed disappointment about her team’s attitude and approach to the top-10 matchup.

“I don’t care about the roster, I care about the way we play and the way we compete – that was the disappointing part,” Close said. “Everybody’s got to take care of their stuff outside to make sure they’re dialed in and focused every time. It’s not rocket science.”

But in the week leading up to the home games against Arizona and Arizona State, UCLA is utilizing mental and emotional training to further prepare.

“The fears of what could happen in the future and the disappointment of what’s happened in the past affected a lot of us in the past weeks,” Close said. “There’s been some ups and downs, so refocusing what it looks like to be mentally present.”

The Bruins’ rotation will look considerably different – Betts is yet to return, and Sontag and senior forward Angela Dugalić will be competing in the FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024 for Team Germany and Team Serbia, respectively, in Brazil for the next two games.

Close is no stranger to competing with a thin roster after navigating teams with seven active players in recent years. Ahead of the homestand, the 12th-year UCLA coach said the versatility of her team will be an advantage, despite playing with only three forwards in freshman Amanda Muse and sophomores Gabriela Jaquez and Christeen Iwuala.

Senior forward Izzy Anstey announced her medical retirement frombasketball just this week, while senior forward Emily Bessoir remains on the bench with an ACL tear sustained in November.

“Cam’s (Graduate student guard Camryn Brown is) going to play every position on the floor, and Gabs is going to play both at the wing and at the 4 spot,” Close said. “We also have the ability to go double big, and some players are getting experience and understanding what it takes at a higher level.”

With the increased reliance on scoring production at the guard level, sophomore guard Kiki Rice said playing in tandem with graduate student guard Charisma Osborne in the backcourt is particularly effective when they can help each other get their desired shots and mount momentum together.

“Over these past few games and however long we need to, I think it’s going to be about playing off each other and making it easier for each other rather than just dealing with taking turns,” Rice said.

Rice acknowledged earlier in the season that her job as point guard is to get Betts a touch at least once per possession, but without that option, she and Osborne have to prioritize getting in position to score and settle into their offensive strides.

Despite losing their once-leading scorer, Close said this adversity has exposed how her guards have relied on Betts at the expense of their own offensive looks. While feeding the paint may lead to a higher percentage make, it displaces the burden on the backcourt.

“Before Lauren was out, they were passing up shots, and they needed to be more aggressive,” Close said. “They need to be bigger hunters. … But when Lauren comes back, I don’t want to lose the aggressiveness that they’ve been forced to develop confidence in.”

With one month until the Pac-12 tournament and an outlook that appears promising for Betts’ return – Close said she expects Betts to play again this season – UCLA’s mental and physical weathering of the storm may demand a discipline and development that pays off in the postseason.

“My hope is that, come March, this will end up being a blessing in disguise,” Close said.

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
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.
COMMENTS
Featured Classifieds
More classifieds »
Related Posts