Welcome to the eighth opponent profile for the 2003-2004 season. Each profile will include information about the opponent’s women’s basketball team and one player or coach on the team. Links to web pages will follow each section. Look for a profile on each opponent 1-2 days before the tip-off.
UCLA enters the contest with a 2-2 record, losing its most recent game at St. Mary’s by one point. Before that loss, the Bruins beat UNLV, lost at Texas, and defeated Illinois. To date, UCLA has lost all of its road games.
The Bruins’ roster is a young one, with only three seniors and one junior among the fourteen players. Of those four upperclassmen, none play more than 19.3 minutes a game, score more than 6.3 points per game, or grab more than 3.3 rebounds. The Bruins are definitely on a youth movement as the top players on the team are sophomores Nikki Blue and Lisa Willis, one of Indi Johnson’s prep teammates at Narbonne, and freshman Noelle Quinn. Blue and Quinn were both McDonald’s All-Americans in high school.
The Bruins players are also not tall. There are two players 6’4” or taller, but they have combined to play seven minutes all season. The next tallest players are 6’2”. Quinn is six feet tall, Willis is five foot eleven, and Blue is five foot eight. If Purdue fans wonder about the correlation between size and rebounding, Bruin fans must be going crazy asking the same thing, as their team has been out-rebounded by an average of four per game.
To date, the Bruins don’t do much well on offense. They’re horrible from the field (36.2%), headache-inducing from the free throw line (60.3%), and abysmal from 3-point range (27.0%). Eight players average more than two points apiece, but the team has scored an average of 59.8 per game. The Bruins have yet to crack the 68 point barrier in a game this year. To make things even worse, the Bruins are averaging more than 16 turnovers per game. The gals in powder blue shoot almost sixteen three-pointers per game, and have shot about 64 times per game on average.
Defensively, UCLA has done a nice job of disrupting their opponents’ offensive game. The opponents shoot 40.9% from the field and 35.4% from 3-point range. Unfortunately, both of those are better than what the Bruins themselves have averaged on the season. Look out for quick hands on the Bruins, as they force opponents into more than twenty-two turnovers per game, including around thirteen steals. Blue is the lead thief with 17 swipes.
The official site of the UCLA Bruins women’s basketball team is found at: http://uclabruins.ocsn.com/sports/w-baskbl/ucla-w-baskbl-body.html
With the Bruins turning to youth to lead their team from the doldrums of past seasons, it makes sense to profile the Bruins best all-around player, sophomore Nikki Blue from Bakersfield, California.
Nikki, a player in the inaugural McDonald’s All-America Game, was an All-Pac 10 selection last year, leading UCLA in rebounds and assists and finishing second in scoring. The 5’8” sophomore currently leads the team in scoring and assists and comes in second in rebounding at six per game. Nikki must also be given the role of Ironwoman on the team as she has played an average of 36 minutes to date.
Nikki’s shooting may be off this season (32.3% from the field, 12.5% from 3-point range) and she may not be making the best decisions to date (more turnovers than assists), but she has the experience and the athletic ability to lead this Bruin team to the upper half of the Pac Ten this year. The two-time Division II all-state player plays big in big games and needs to trust her teammates to take on more of a scoring role at UCLA.
Nikki’s bio on the official UCLA women’s basketball homepage can be found at: http://uclabruins.ocsn.com/sports/w-baskbl/mtt/ucla-w-baskbl-mtt.html
The Bruins will have an edge in intangibles in the game with Purdue, as senior Whitney Jones, a 5’10” forward with three years of college experience, rejoins the basketball team after the UCLA soccer team was defeated in the College Cup national semifinals. While the Boilermakers are welcoming Aya Traore into the fold, Jones has been steady for the Bruins in seasons past as she has averaged between 6.8 and 9.5 points and 4.4 to 5.2 rebounds per game in her three college seasons.
Unfortunately for UCLA fans, that may be the only edge the Bruins have in the game with Purdue. The size of the two teams is fairly equal so rebounding really will be a battle of wills rather than size, Purdue is a much better shooting team than UCLA, has better depth (four Bruins starters average more than 30 minutes per game), and has more collegiate experience than the Bruins. Add that the game is being played in Indianapolis rather than California, and the Boilermakers look to be victorious on Saturday.
UCLA played Texas at Texas this season and was beaten by 31 points. The difference against Purdue won’t be as large, since the game isn’t being played in West Lafayette and Jones will bring some leadership to UCLA, but will have the same result for the Bruins. Purdue wins, 82-63.
Keep an eye on bench play for Purdue, as Coach Curry will have to be considering the rotation for the Big Ten season. The starters, Katie, and Erin should all get their minutes, but the X-factor now becomes Aya. Will she develop a bond quickly with her teammates and provide more explosiveness off the bench? Carol’s strong play in the paint against Valparaiso and Houston should pay off with time against UCLA, and Sharika and Ashley will probably spot Erika, Beth, and the other guards off and on. Also watch to see if the offense gets back on track after a lackluster performance against Houston.