Some of the mystery was removed last night, but UCLA’s full potential still has much left to reveal.
The Bruins got off to a slow start in their game against Master’s College, and lead by only six at halftime. But within the last 10 minutes of the game, UCLA turned on the gas and built a lead, thanks to Erica Tukianien (16 points), Doreena Campbell (13 points) and Nina Earl (13 points). (The box score is here.) The early pace of the Bruins is put into perspective when considering that they are missing three key players, and still have one more recruit left to take to the court.
Forward Antonye Nyingifa is still on the mend from a May knee injury she suffered during the USA Basketball trials, and guard Allison Taka has foot pain due to a previous injury. Forward Candice Brown was nowhere to be seen last night. Turns out she’s been dismissed from the team due to “repeatedly violating team rules.” Then there is Jasmine Dixon, who left Rutgers last Dec. 8 and transfered to Westwood. She will be eligible to play mid-December.
So, not bad for nine Bruin players.
Starters were Darxia Morris at point, Campbell, Tukianien, Earl and freshman Markel Walker. The newcomer from Philadelphia looked very comfortable on the floor, and pulled down 11 rebounds to go with her eight points. There is great potential there, and thank goodness for that, as the loss of Brown creates a problem. Moniquee Alexander is now the lone UCLA big, and though she seems to have improved her game from last year, she still isn’t a strong post. For example, she still went up too soft on several layups, and in the first half she traveled under the basket twice.
But if Walker can step up and develop under Coach Nikki Caldwell, and if the guards – and even forwards – get as fast as they can, the Bruins could still be contenders this year.
As a team, UCLA’s defense is very good; there were several traps successfully executed last night, for example. Rebounds are also good, as last night they hit 54, which is where they were at their peak last season. Offensively, the Bruins still need to get into a flow, and they need to start hitting their shots.
I’m bummed because my camera memory card is having issues, so I’m unable to post the pictures I took last night. I had pictures of both Walker and the other freshman, Mariah Williams from Colorado. There’s a picture of Caldwell sitting in the huddle surrounded by her team. In another shot is a mystery player who a UCLA spokesman told fullcourt.com today has walked on to the team (he’s finding out more information on it). And there is a picture of former Lady Vol Shyra Ely, sitting courtside. (She was in town to help Caldwell and assistant coach Tasha Butts with their season wardrobes for the year).
The Bruins’ next home game is Nov. 19, against Hawaii.