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NCAAW Preview: No. 5 UCLA has a lot riding on its battle with Arizona State

Three Pac-12 teams sit in the Top 10 nationally, and two of them are in action Friday night. While No. 10 Arizona is on pause due to COVID-19, No. 6 Stanford amassed an authoritative win Friday afternoon and No. 5 UCLA looks to join them in the win column Friday night.

UCLA v Oregon
If Natalie Chou gets hot from 3-point range it could be the Bruins’ night.
Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

As the calendar prepares to turn from January to February, things are tight at the top of the Pac-12 standings.

The No. 5 UCLA Bruins (9-2, 7-2 Pac-12), No. 6 Stanford Cardinal (13-2, 10-2 Pac-12) and No. 10 Arizona Wildcats (11-2, 9-2 Pac-12) all sit with two losses.

Arizona is sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, resulting in the postponement of their Friday afternoon game against Southern Cal. Nevertheless, the other two top teams are in action on Friday, opening a potentially consequential weekend of Pac-12 play.

Stanford completed its away back-to-back Friday afternoon with an authoritative 77-49 win over the Washington State Cougars (8-5, 6-5 Pac-12).

Now, UCLA welcomes the Arizona State Sun Devils (8-4, 4-4 Pac-12) to Pauley Pavilion at 9:00 p.m. ET.

UCLA has not taken the court since their big win over Stanford last Friday, 70-66. Hopefully, the week-long layoff will not have cooled the dynamic duo of senior Michaela Onyenwere and sophomore Charisma Osborne.

Onyenwere tallied her fifth-straight double-double, putting in 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Osborne, meanwhile, dropped her fourth-straight 20-plus-point game against the Cardinal and also sank the game-winning free throws with under two minutes remaining.

Her efforts earned her Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

In early December, the Bruins escaped with close win over the Sun Devils, 63-59. After building a 17-point first-half lead, UCLA let Arizona State back into the game, resulting in a tightly-contested fourth quarter.

If the Bruins can confidently and comfortably close out the Sun Devils this time around, however, it not only will solidify their place at the top of the conference but also confirm that they are a Top-5 caliber team nationally.

UCLA was scheduled to face Arizona on Sunday, an enticing Top-10 tilt that has been postponed due to COVID protocols.

Game Information

No. 5 UCLA Bruins (9-2, 7-2) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (8-4, 4-4 Pac-12)

When: Friday, Jan. 29, at 9:00 p.m. ET

Where: Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA

How to watch: Pac-12 Networks

What to watch for: While Osborne and Onyenwere are in the must-watch category regardless of opponent, UCLA will need additional contributions to triumph over Arizona State. Redshirt senior guard Natalie Chou has served as a valuable floor spacer for the Bruins. She is shooting 43.5 percent from behind the arc, the third-best mark in the Pac-12. In UCLA’s previous matchup against Arizona State, Chou fired only two 3s, missing both, in 20 minutes of action. Of late, her playing time has increased to more than 30 minutes per game. Chou also has had several games with a higher — and, thus, more threatening — number of 3-point attempts. Case in point: Chou tallied a season-best 5-of-7 performance against Utah on Jan. 10.