UCLA 104, Oregon 80

I sat behind the Oregon bench for the first half, so I could see what was going on. What I saw was a team that was all business and much more energized than the Ducks of previous years, when Bev Smith was the coach. Smith, frankly, always looked like she was depressed, and that vibe translated into an often-lackluster Oregon team.

The Paul Westhead Ducks don’t scan the audience during timeouts like they did last year at Pauley – they’re focused on the business at hand. They also look more sleek and athletic; it’s obvious strength and conditioning is newly emphasized this year. And of course, they’re faster on court and have a nice up-tempo offense and defense.

Oregon reminds me of UCLA last year – fresh under a new coach and having so much potential, but still needing some seasoning. I think they’re on their way to greatness, as UCLA is.

Bruins Coach Nikki Caldwell said in her post-game interview that her team had “finally put together a 40-minute game.” That was right on the money, and it’s what won the game for them. They were pushing it from tipoff to final buzzer – no let up or lapse. It was an impressive display.

As UCLA players continue to develop quickly, the team grows deeper and the weapons mount. Freshman Mariah Williams is a good example. She was one of six Bruins in double figures – with 15 – and played 23 minutes. Her energy was explosive and her defense was also bomb. On one Duck possession in the second half, the 5-foot-5 Williams found herself in a height mismatch situation with Oregon forward Amanda Johnson, but successfully defended her much taller opponent. It was pure intimidation on Williams’ part.

Six Ducks were also in double figures.

Oregon’s Jasmin Holliday, from Southern California, had one big fan in her father last night. The tall Mr. Holliday wore a customized long-sleeved shirt with his daughter’s picture, name and number on both the front and the sleeves.

The crowd size was nice for a weeknight. No celebrity sightings, though.

Box score.

Reader Patrick Meighan was kind enough to post his game report last night in the comments section of another entry. Here it is:

UCLA was nominally in control for most all of the game, though the score stayed close ’til about the, I dunno, 7-minute mark or so, at which point the Bruins pulled away.

High points included a lot of rim-filling by Doreena, a nice 15 point performance by Mariah inclusive of a couple of pretty decent dishes and a perfect four-for-four from the free throw line, Jasmine continuing to be Jasmine, and (in garbage time) a couple points for the walk-on, Jackie Shepard. Crowd went pretty wild at that one, and so did the starters, watching from the bench at that point.

Decent and loud-enough crowd, too (1200 reported), although a lot of ’em were, like, junior high students on a school outing or something. They were yelling loud for the Bruins sometimes, but they also sometimes were just kind of yelling loud, period, for no real reason. You know how that is.

More good news: the Bruins’ free throw shooting was better-than-horrible! UCLA shot 18 for 23 as a team, for a not-terrible-by-UCLA-standards 78%.

Only frightening part of the night: Markel Walker took a pretty solid shot to the eye (or thereabouts) in the 2nd half and looked to be hurt real bad. She sat on the bench, covering her face, for it seemed like 10 minutes before finally letting the team doctor/trainer/whatever even look at it. Finally the doctor/trainer escorted her off to the locker room (or someplace), and it looked like she was done for the night, but she ended up coming back and getting in for the last few minutes of the game, and looked strong, to boot.

Paul Westhead holds a timeout.

Taylor Lilley scraps for the ball.

Mariah Williams sets up the play.

Doreena Campbell D’s up hard.

I love this wrap-around box out by Oregon’s Amanda Johnson.

Markel Walker got bopped in her sore nose in the second half and walked off the court like this, which wasn’t very reassuring for worried fans. She returned to the court after about 10 minutes, though.

I can’t stop singing the praises of Doreena Campbell, seen here hitting a long-range side shot at the end of the game. She does it all: she’s a point guard, a shooting guard, a rebounder, a slasher, a defender. She’s awesome.