UCLA women find lessons in loss
STANFORD, Calif. (AP)
Thea Lemberger and Atonye Nyingifa have played more minutes than anyone else in the Pac-12 Conference. Nirra Fields is not far behind.
UCLA coach Cori Close has no other choice. When she looks down her bench, she sees eight healthy bodies. Everybody else is out for the season.
The Bruins stayed with No. 4 Stanford just about as long as they could. They were within six points heading into the final eight minutes before withering under the constant reinforcements.
''We made a huge deal about coming out in the second half with even more energy,'' Close said after the Bruins fell to Stanford, 72-55 on Friday night. ''Then we sort of hit a wall in the second half. We have to find a way to push through because it's not going to change.''
Nyingifa scored 18 points and had eight rebounds to lead the Bruins (10-10, 4-4 Pac-12), who had won three of their previous four games. Fields scored 13 points.
''It was a mixed bag for us,'' Close said. ''They are a lot of things to be proud of. We played with good energy for a long time. I've never been so thrilled to hold someone to 21 points.''
That someone was two-time All-American Chiney Ogwumike, who scored 21 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cardinal (7-0, 18-1), who were held to their closest margin of victory in conference.
Ogwumike, second in the nation in field goal percentage, missed five of her first six shots against an aggressive Bruins defense that shifted between zone and man defense to find ways to slow down the All-American.
''They're physical, within the context of the game and how it was officiated,'' Ogwumike said. ''It took me a while to adjust to their physicality. In the interim, my teammates stepped up while I was struggling.''
Ogwumike made nine of her final 12 shots to help the Cardinal put some distance between themselves and the Bruins.
''A lot of their players stepped up,'' Close said. ''We had to make them do something different.''
The game was tied at 39 early in the second half when James hit consecutive 3-pointers to ignite a Cardinal run that eventually led to a 66-51 advantage heading into the final five minutes.
''That hurt us,'' Close said. ''We had just talked about defending the 3-point shot. When James hit those 3's, I think we letdown a little bit and it led to a critical five-minute drought for us.''
UCLA harassed Stanford into 16 turnovers and stayed within striking distance much of the game, thanks to a 14-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
Stanford led at halftime, 36-35.
The Cardinal extended their winning streak over UCLA to 17 games and have won 15 straight at Stanford.
The Bruins' previous three losses were each by two points.
Nyingifa played in her 127th game, moving her into a tie for third in UCLA history.