Los Angeles, Calif. – No. 15 UCLA used a 1-2-3 punch of stifling defense, flawless cohesion and relentless energy Monday night to rout No. 11 Oregon State, 71-51.
Jordin Canada lead the Bruins with 24 points, and had 4 of 4 three-point shots. Kari Korver added a trio of treys herself within 12 total points, and Nirra Fields put up 10. UCLA out-rebounded the visitors, 42-34, had more than twice as many steals, and forced the Beavers into making a season-high 26 turnovers.
Jamie Weisner was the lone OSU player in double figures, with 19 points. She and fellow starter, center Ruth Hamblin, sat out most of the first half after getting in early foul trouble.
The Bruins, who had lost their last 21 games against ranked opponents, scored the first basket and never trailed. They lead 16-8 at the 5:08 mark of the first period, but the Beavers made a run to close the gap to three points at the break. UCLA continued their full-court press in the second quarter, forcing 10 OSU turnovers and building their lead to 35-27 at halftime.
Hamblin and Weisner came back into the Beaver lineup to start the second half, but Canada got hot and hit three consecutive shots to boost the Bruin advantage to 42-29 at the 7:02 mark. UCLA seemed to be in perfect sync, hitting shots at will and matching each other’s intensity on both sides of the court. OSU never ignited, even with the return of the two starters.
The Bruin domination continued in the fourth quarter, and they lead by as much as 22 points, twice. Coach Cori Close characterized the game as a total team effort.
“I was really proud of our team for the way they executed their game plan,” she said. “They did it with incredible energy, defensive commitment, and willingness to play their part, even though it was hard. I’m proud of my coaching staff the way they prepared for this game.”
UCLA coaches diligently prepared for OSU, which has become an elite program, and planned to use defensive pressure against them.
“Ruth Hamblin is one of the best post players in the country….we had to disrupt their vision and make them run their offense farther away from the basket,” Close said. “It was having an attack mentality on offense. We knew we had to hit pull up jump shots, and we needed to go right at them. It was 40 minutes of pressure and not letting them get into the rhythm of their offense.”
Beaver coach Scott Rueck acknowledged the deadliness of the Bruin defense.
“Their pressure was really effective tonight. They forced us into a lot of mistakes and used their athleticism well. I didn’t like the way we countered it,” Rueck said. “I thought it took us out of our game too often, and they need to be commended for that.”
“We didn’t get comfortable offensively…..and didn’t score because we had a hard time. They did a good job on Ruth, as she only had four shots. We need to do a better job of getting her the basketball, of course, than we did tonight. Their pressure kept us off balance, forced us into some turnovers….and we couldn’t close the gap. We couldn’t get into a rhythm at all, offensively.”
UCLA struggled with a tough schedule last season, but has been coming together this year and has been ranked for almost one month. OSU is currently without starting guard Sydney Wiese, who is out indefinitely with a hand injury. Freshman guard Katie McWilliams filled in for Wiese and had 7 points and 7 turnovers. Rueck said the team is adjusting.
“In a game like this, you need experience and need to stay composed,” he said. “Katie learned a lot tonight – we all did. With Syd on the floor, she’s seen that stuff for three years. I don’t know how you measure (being without her), but it was obviously an immense loss.”
Canada said the Bruins were extremely fired up going into the match up, and mounting a lead only made them more hungry.
“It just lead into more defense and wanting to get stop after stop after stop,” Canada said.
The win snapped a 21-game losing streak against ranked teams for UCLA, dating back to November, 2013.
OSU will play arch rival Oregon twice this weekend, while the Bruins face USC for the second time on Sunday.