Los Angeles, CA — Most teams would view snagging three top-15 wins within their first four games as surviving the gauntlet. Or at least worthy of some love from Scott Van Pelt on tonight’s edition of SportsCenter. Not UConn women’s basketball. For a team that has won 115 out of their last 116 games, consider it business as usual.
Behind a sparkling defensive effort – in which they held UCLA to zero points in transition –UConn dominated the No. 5 ranked Bruins 78-60.
Even UConn head coach, Geno Auriemma, was shocked at his team’s ability to hold a rim-slashing Jordin Canada and a transition-oriented UCLA team scoreless in the fast break.
“I didn’t expect that at all,” said Coach Auriemma. “That’s a huge part of their offense…The fact we gave up no transition points was probably why they only got 60. We thought there were two key things going in: transition and offensive rebounds. We took care of both of those things.”
For UCLA, tonight’s 18-point loss was a powerful reminder that, despite knocking off No. 3 ranked Baylor just a few days ago, their work is far from done.
“UConn was the better team tonight,” said Bruins head coach, Cori Close. “We wanted this to show us a barometer of where we are. We are a really good basketball team, but there is no margin of error with a great basketball team. There is nothing like a game like this to teach our hearts, coaches included.”
UCLA’s night was upended by a Huskies team superior in the fundamentals, particularly on the defensive end. The Bruins’ leading scorer, Jordin Canada, was held to just two points of offense in the first half. The Huskies defense took the rest of the Bruin offense out of rhythm as well –no UCLA player scored more than eight points through two quarters.
“They weren’t in any kind of flow,” said Coach Auriemma. “You could see they were struggling to find where their offense was going to come from. I thought our guys were great defensively. Crystal Dangerfield, Kia Nurse, and Napheesa Collier were incredible tonight.”
The dagger for the Bruins came in the third stanza, when an even stingier UConn defense sparked a 16-0 run, culminating in a 22-9 quarter for the Huskies. They masterfully turned defensive stops into points.
“I just thought we were careless with the ball, especially me,” said UCLA guard Canada. “I think I was doing too much. I didn’t put my teammates in positions to be at their best, and that’s when they went on their run. We also didn’t rebound as well in the third quarter.”
The ringleader tonight offensively for UConn was Napheesa Collier, who had 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
“That was the biggest thing that came out of this game – we got Pheesa going the way we know she can go,” said Coach Auriemma. “Without Lou, that’s huge.”
He is referring to the scoring void left by Katie Lou Samuelson’s foot injury. Dangerfield, Megan Walker, and Nurse really stepped up in her absence – all scored in double figures.
The bottom line was that UConn took away the Bruins’ primary ammunition – getting out in transition – and then forced someone besides Canada, Monique Billings, or Kennedy Burke to beat them. Those three players had 14 or more points whereas the rest of the Bruin squad was held to eight points or less.
Finding other sources of scoring to take the load off of those three will undoubtedly be a priority for Coach Close if this UCLA team wants to be a title contender.
Speaking of championships, Pauley Pavilion played host to a Final Four-type atmosphere, with the likes of Kobe Bryant in attendance. In typical UConn fashion, they embraced the hostile crowd and played with a chip on their shoulder.
“It’s really fun, especially being in someone else’s home and having the crowd against you,” said Huskies guard Collier. “To go on scoring runs and silence the crowd was really fun.”
Next up for UConn is Michigan State on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 3 pm ET while UCLA looks to re-group against Kansas State on Friday, Nov. 24 at 1:15 pm PT.
UConn SNAPS UCLA's 32-game home win streak in a dominant 78-60 victory. Join us as we recap the game!Posted by Swish Appeal on Tuesday, November 21, 2017