UCLA 87, Oregon 57

The story today was the UCLA Bruins’ defense. They routed the Oregon Ducks on the strength and foundation of tenacious, suffocating defense.

The Bruins pressed, they double- and triple-teamed. And every one-on-one was no joke, either. They forced Oregon into a season-high 31 turnovers (while committing only 15 of their own). They held the normally high-scoring Ducks to 18 points at halftime. And UCLA was so busy on defense that their regular high-scorers put up much fewer points than usual.

The stats are interesting: UCLA significantly out did Oregon in assists and steals. Yet the Ducks had much better three-point and free throw shooting percentages. What made the difference today was urgency. The Bruins came out looking like they had to hurry up and defuse a bomb that was about to go off. You could see it in their faces. And their full-court press was just staggering.

I’ve said it before, but it amazes me what UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell has done with the team she inherited. She has basically the same cast, with Jasmine Dixon and a few other players, that she had when she came in. There are no real stars on the team, but they are ranked tenth in the country.

I see Scott Rueck of Oregon State doing the same thing. At this moment, it is between those he and Caldwell for Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

What do they say and do to motivate their teams? That’s the million dollar question. And if more coaches could figure that out, the quality of the game would rise exponentially.

My one disappointment today, besides seeing my Ducks stomped, was the decision to leave the Bruin starters in for as long as they were. And why not put the freshmen and Jackie Shepard in sooner and give them more playing experience? I can’t think of one reason when your team is up by 30-35 points. Shepard, in particular, gets virtually no playing time. Doreena Campbell didn’t come out of the game until the 2:32 mark, to be replaced by Shepard. I would have flipped that equation.

UCLA heads to Northern California next week to take on Cal and Stanford.

Oregon’s Kristi Fallin passes to Victoria Kenyon in the first half, while UCLA’s Jasmine Dixon guards.

Oregon point guard Nia Jackson (#32) has just passed to Fallin, who looks to dish it off.

Though blurry, this shows how intense UCLA’s defense was today. Darxia Morris, above, was particularly tenacious – seen here guarding Jackson.

Additional photos HERE.