‘We have no doubt’: UCLA is confident it can upset top-ranked South Carolina

For UCLA, the adage rings true. Practice makes perfect.

After a heartbreaking late-game collapse, coach Cori Close changed UCLA’s practice regimen to two or three times a week with a mandatory scrimmage to end practices. Two minutes and 30 seconds on the clock. Random score. Win and practice is over.

“Trust and believe,” senior linebacker Camryn Brown said, “before long we’ve been here trying to win a two-minute, 30-second game.”

Once plagued by fourth quarter disasters, the Bruins are winning close games to keep their season alive. They exorcised the demons of their rookie season en route to their first Sweet 16 since 2019 and will face No. 1 South Carolina (34-0) on Saturday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena at 11 a.m. PDT.

No. 4 UCLA (27-9) outscored opponents by an average of one point in the fourth quarter and overtime during the regular season. It was the team’s smallest margin of any quarter this season. But through six postseason games, the Bruins have a 4.5-point lead in the fourth quarter and overtime. They showed their strength in the second round by blowing a one-point deficit into the fourth quarter against Oklahoma by nine points.

The confidence gained from back-to-back scrimmage wins helped the Bruins turn their Achilles heel into a strength at the right time. In the last practice session, Close will score. Earlier in the week, the Bruins will be in action at the start of the competition against the men’s practice squad. It might be even the next day. Close could see a one-point gap towards the end of the week.

Regardless of the situation, the Bruins need to figure out a way to win.

“With those drills in practice our focus and intentionality has gone to a whole new level,” freshman guard Kiki Rice said. “I think that’s what helped us get our success back into games.”

South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso tackles UCLA forward Emily Bessoir for a rebound in the Bruins’ Nov. 29 loss.

(Nell Redmond/Associated Press)

Close implemented the strategy after UCLA lost three straight heartbreakers during the Pac-12 season. UCLA made just one shot from the field in a 73-70 overtime loss at Colorado on Jan. 27. Two days later, the Bruins blew an eight-point lead against Utah with 6:25 left and gave the Utes a chance to win the game. With 0.8 seconds left. They squandered an 11-point lead with 4:49 left in the fourth quarter against Arizona on Feb. 3 and lost by five points in overtime.

UCLA felt like it “imploded” at the end of each game, Close said.

“Those three games, we won enough games to win and we didn’t,” the 12-year coach said. “So we had to be very good at finishing.”

Stuck in a tough stretch where other teams might have broken down, the Bruins relied on their mental training that teaches them to treat every game as a learning opportunity. They watched the film of each question very carefully.

As work began on a home sweep against Oregon State and Oregon, the Bruins outscored the Beavers 18-7 in the fourth quarter and the Ducks in the 10th.

“I don’t think we’re going to be in the Sweet 16 without losing those three games,” Brown said. “I’m glad that those three games happened, because they taught us what to do in the last four minutes of the game. Who we should rely on and become in the last four minutes of the game.’

The South Carolina game will be a test of how far the Bruins have come.

On November 29, UCLA led the national champions by four at halftime and was tied in the fourth quarter. Playing in front of more than 12,000 fans in Columbia, SC, the Bruins cut South Carolina’s lead to two with 3:41 left, but the Gamecocks responded with a 7-0 run.

The Bruins reviewed game film this week. Close was encouraged by how they handled South Carolina’s changes for most of the game and struggled without freshman forward Christeen Iwuala, who missed the game with an injury, and Lina Sontag, who was fouled in 10 scoreless minutes. UCLA, which lost 73-64, is one of five teams to hold the Gamecocks to single digits this season.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley admired UCLA’s rebounding and purpose on offense. He told Close after the game that they would get back together in March. The Bruins thought so, too.

“We just couldn’t get the job done the first time in the fourth quarter, so to give them another shot when we feel like we’ve done a lot better is a great opportunity for us,” Rice said after the UCLA win. Okla. “We have no fear that they are the No. 1 seed. We have no doubts.”

Source link

Related posts

Knicks use rare offensive feat to beat Pacers for fifth straight win


Just Stop Oil: More than 200 arrested after oil terminal protests


Shakib Chamak in Test rankings


Leave a Comment