UCLA 78, San Diego State 71

UCLA overcame both a staffing and size deficit last night to beat visiting San Diego State 78-71.

Antonye Nyingifa lead the Bruins with 21 points, and Rebekah Gardner added 20. Courtney Clements led the Aztecs with 19 points, while Melissa Sweat put up 14.

SDSU was ahead 8-4 by the 16:04 mark, but UCLA went on a 13-0 run over the next four minutes to lead 17-8 at 12:02. They continued their climb, and were up by as many as 16 points more than midway through the half. But the Aztecs began a run of their own in the closing minutes, slashing the deficit to 31-38 at the half.

They continued their run in the second, and tied the score at 39 two minutes into the period. But about halfway through, the Bruins clamped down and began pulling away. Ahead by eight points at the 9:45 mark, they never looked back. Both teams each now have 4-2 records.

Box score.

SDSU is a tall, physical team with a lot of athleticism. They are using four freshmen who scored 20 points between them against UCLA. They also have junior guard Clements, who can score both inside and out. Chelsea Hopkins, the junior transfer from Duke, is an extremely capable, agile point guard with excellent court vision and instincts.

Aztec Coach Beth Burns took the team to the Sweet 16 in 2009, and has been rebuilding ever since. Now it looks like her plans are beginning to take shape. This young team is one to watch. They are good, and are only going to get better; the writing is already on the wall.

UCLA currently has a seven-woman rotation: Nyingifa, Gardner, Mariah Williams, Thea Lemberger, Corrine Costa, Moriah Faulk, and Rhema Gardner. Nyingifa and Gardner are doing a great job leading the team, much like Doreena Campbell and Darxia Morris did last year. Williams and Lemberger have stepped up their games – both of which were weak. So has Rhema Gardner. Faulk is the only active freshman currently, and she’s the real deal: a fearless slasher who can also shoot the three.

James Ybiernas, UCLA assistant sports information director, said Markel Walker has been out after having thumb surgery, and hopes to be reactivated in time for the LSU game in two weeks. Kacy Swain sustained a concussion in Friday’s game against West Virginia, and is listed day-to-day. Both Alexis Perry and Jackie Shepard had off-season shoulder surgery, and are out indefinitely. Jasmine Dixon is out for the year, and Alyssia Brewer is sitting out one year as per NCAA transfer rules.

The situation is really no different than it has been for the last two years, as UCLA’s bench was so weak it was like having only 7-8 active players anyway. The difference now is that the Bruins have more offensive structure, thanks to new Coach Cori Close.

My game photos.

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