With Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike questionable today, UCLA's Jasmine Dixon's team-high rebounding could be a key to the Bruins getting a home win against a national title contender. Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.
Who: #9 UCLA Bruins (22-2) vs. #3 Stanford Cardinal (23-2)
Where: Pauley Pavilion
When: Noon PST
How to watch: FSN (with Jim Watson, Mary Murphy, Samantha Steele); Audio: uclabruins.com
What: the Bruins will feature a Dads and Daughters' Day promotion which includes two tickets, two t-shirts, two lunches, two commemorative photos, access to a pre-game carnival which features prizes, fun games, autograph stations by top female athletes --- all for a $20 charge. Tickets still available at tickets.ucla.edu.
Why: This is the first significant road test for Stanford since losing to Tennessee way back in December when Kayla Pedersen was less than 100% after suffering a concussion (and to score watchers who judge teams without looking at the details it had an impact as it was Pedersen's worst game of the season). Unfortunately, they'll be less than 100% today as well.
Stanford women face biggest Pac-10 test: UCLA
What's more, there's a chance Stanford will be without leading scorer Nneka Ogwumike, who sprained her right ankle early in the second half of Friday night's 78-64 win over the Trojans. Besides averaging 16.3 points, Ogwumike is the team's second leading rebounder (7.8). She didn't take part in Saturday's practice and will be re-evaluated again this morning.
So if Ogwumike can't go, it would be difficult to hold this game against Stanford and it certainly shouldn't jeopardize their status as a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the conference standings are blind to such circumstances - with Stanford holding only a one game advantage over UCLA it's an opportunity for the Bruins.
For UCLA this is also an opportunity to prove themselves as a potential Final Four contender after getting handled by the Cardinal in Palo Alto a few weeks ago. From a UCLA release:
Jan. 20, 2011 in Stanford, CA – No. 4-ranked Stanford raced to an early 15-4 lead and never looked back in taking down the then eighth-ranked Bruins 64-38. The Cardinal used runs to end the first half and to start the second half to break the game open. Jasmine Dixon was the lone Bruin in double digits with 12 points. She also topped the team in rebounds with six. Stanford became the first opponent this season to force more turnovers than the Bruins in a contest. The loss snapped a streak of 13 straight Bruins wins in regular season Pac-10 games.
With Stanford being less than 100%, perhaps a win shouldn't launch them into serious contender status, but a loss at home to a limping Cardinal team would certainly not help their standing in the eyes of those who see the world through a biased east coast lens.
Three keys to the game:
Video from Stanford Athletics.
Stanford's bench play: Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer notes in the video above that bench play would be key for this game and that's certainly no less true with Ogwumike questionable. Joslyn Tinkle and Sarah Boothe are the obvious ones to watch in that regard, with Tinkle likely taking Ogwumike's place in the starting lineup (although going small would be interesting against UCLA. given their aggressive trapping defense).
- Rebounding: While the turnover differential is normally UCLA"s most significant strength, offensive rebounding is also typically UCLA's a major advantage the Bruins have over opponents. Yet it's also normally one that Stanford takes away. Rugged forward Jasmine Dixon is the Bruins' leading rebounder and entered the weekend ranked #6 in the conference in offensive rebounding with 2.8 per game while missing Ogwumike would mean 5.6 less defensive rebounds per game. However, the Bruins don't necessarily rely on one player on the boards anyway - they have seven players on the roster who get more than 8% of the available offensive rebounds while on the floor with Dixon leading the way at 12%. They're an athletic team that rebounds aggressively as a unit and that will be more of a challenge for Stanford today if Ogwumike can't go.
UCLA's perimeter shooting: these two teams are the top two in the conference in field goal percentage, but UCLA ranks 9th in three point percentage (26.9%). While they like to just make games ugly against most teams and score points in transition, nothing is as easy against the Cardinal and if they don't want to get run out of their own building, they'll need to hit shots.
Women's Basketball Shuts Down Cal 63-48 To Set Up Showdown With Stanford - Bruins Nation
With Stanford's clear size advantage inside, they always look to shut down Jasmine Dixon and Markel Walker. When UCLA almost upset the Cardinal at Pauley last season, it is because Darxia and Doreena were hitting jumpers all around the court, so they could be key to Sunday's matchup. The game is at noon and will be televised on FSN, but if you are in the area, this is the game to go to. With dance marathon going on at the same time, student/band attendance will be lower, so it's up to the alumni to make up for the missed fan support and noise in a big BIG home game.
UCLA basketball is not exactly the best intro to women's basketball - when they win, it's ugly and that's exactly what they aim for. But the game is significant for a UCLA program trying to establish itself - and its defense - on the national landscape.
No. 9 UCLA Hosts No. 3 Stanford Sunday In Top 10 Showdown
The last time a top-10 ranked Bruin team hosted a top-10 opponent was on Nov. 28, 1999 when No. 5 Tennessee defeated No. 4 UCLA 88-77 in Pauley...The matchup with No. 3 Stanford will mark the first time since 1981 that a UCLA team has played a regular season home game this late in the season while ranked in the Top 10. The last UCLA team to accomplish this was the 1980-81 team, which was ranked 9th by AP when it defeated No. 8 USC, 87-83 in Pauley Pavilion.