Friday, March 11, 2011
Basketball: Defense gets Bruins into title game
By Blair Angulo
LOS ANGELES -- Rust? What rust?
The second-seeded UCLA women's basketball team showed little signs of it Friday afternoon, beating California 63-50 in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals at Staples Center. By finishing in second place in the conference standings, UCLA had been rewarded with a free pass through the first two rounds. It had been a week since the Bruins played competitively.
It didn't look that way, though.
"Our mindset was to make sure that we came into the game with great intensity," coach Nikki Caldwell said. "They understand that we have to do it on the defensive end. That's who we are and that's how we get our transition game going. That's how we get easy looks, that's how we turn people over. To me, that's a fun way to play this game."
Winning, of course, is fun. And UCLA has done plenty of it this season, improving to 27-3 overall and 15-1 away from Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins have won 12 of 13, with the lone loss coming to their next opponent, second-ranked Stanford. The title game is set to tip off at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
UCLA raced out to an 11-1 lead and never looked back, leading by as many as 23 early in the second half. Atonye Nyingifa led the Bruins with 17 points and nine rebounds. Darxia Morris had 14, Doreena Campbell had 12. UCLA improved to 19-0 this season when three players score in double figures.
"For me, personally, this is it," said Campbell, a senior. "We're going to the end now and every game counts, you know. Every game is that one last game that you'll remember. Why not put it on the line?"
UCLA, ranked No. 9 in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, figures to receive a good seeding in the NCAA tournament, win or lose Saturday against the Cardinal.
"I just hope that they continue to play as a unit," Caldwell said, "and we'll see how far that takes us."