UCLA 96, Northridge, 53

By now everybody knows that yesterday the Bruins won by their largest margin in six years, that they had 22 steals, forced 32 turnovers, had 54 rebounds and had a shooting percentage of over 40 percent for both halves, and not just one. That Erica Tukianien and my girl Christina Nzekwe each had career-high point totals. That four players scored in double figures and two had eight rebounds each, and that all 12 players scored.

So I’ll provide the between-the-lines stuff.

The Bruins look better with each game, and yesterday they were a 35-minute team. They would have been 40 if there wasn’t a little lapse in the very first part of the game, where they’d built a lead and then let Northridge catch up. But once UCLA made a run, there was no looking back.

Their defense was excellent throughout the game. For example, in the first half Doreena Campbell and Allison Taka trapped a player right in front of their bench, forcing a turnover.

The boxing out clicked with a few minutes to go in the first half, and stayed solid throughout most of the rest of the game. Players were also scoring that don’t usually, like Taka. Looking at the box score (http://uclabruins.cstv.com/sports/w-baskbl/stats/2008-2009/csunucla.html) there’s a lot of balance in the scoring, and that’s such a good sign.

The Bruins had good ball movement, too. Gone was any sluggishness Coach Nikki Caldwell had been after them for in previous games; they were passing, dishing and running that ball along. They were also getting it into the paint to score and not settling for dumb outside shots. I think that made me the happiest of all.

It’s a pleasure to see Darxia Morris back, and she is apparently happy to be there too. She got hot late in the second half, reeling off two shots in a row. With 3:40 to go, she drove into the key, and when a defender started to lunge for her, she did a neat head fake and took one more step to put the jumper in clean. She backed away and stood by herself at half court for a moment, grinning. It was funny.

After the game, Caldwell said the team “makes it a point to generate their own energy,” and that they do that with defensive play. (Ah, I hear “Rocky Top” in the background). Caldwell said the Bruins have to play with intensity no matter who they’re playing.

“We want to be a part of March Madness,” she said.

I want them to be in there, too, and they have a good chance. I predict they’ll finish no lower than fourth in the Pac-10, and maybe as high as third behind Cal and Stanford.

I see the Bruins like a car that finally got to get out of the garage at the beginning of the season. They spent some time driving down the road towards the interstate. Now they’ve turned onto the on-ramp and are just about ready to blast down the freeway.

The future is bright.

Another bright spot yesterday was the attendence, which was up. Caldwell has been getting out and hustling to get people to come to games. How great is that? I love her even more now.

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AP’s new rankings came out today:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/rankings?pollId=1&seasonYear=2009&weekNumber=4&seasonType=2

I’m still pondering it, but I don’t understand how Rutgers didn’t play last week at all. That’s weird to me.

And Texas in the top 10? Wow. Coach G is on fire.

But like I said, still pondering.

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On the sad side, the Houston Comets folded today. One of the league’s pioneers, and its champions for the first four years of its existance.

I know another team will eventually rise again, but it’s disheartening to see one of the originals go. I hope Tina Thompson finds a team that’s good for her.

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