The Bruins, in more ways than one, have usurped Cal’s former place in the Pac-10, both stylistically and in the standings. UCLA will slow the game down, focusing on suffocating trapping defense and team rebounding. When they are playing their best they are forcing constant turnovers and bad shots while holding opponents to one shot per possession. On offense they will rarely take 3 point shots - just 10.7% of their field goals are from behind the arc. UCLA wants to pound the ball inside as much as possible, ideally getting high percentage shots for their forwards.
UCLA has had impressive balance on offense this year, with six players averaging between 8.0 and 11.7 points per game. Jasmine Dixon is the biggest threat, but UCLA has such a deep group of veteran players that no one person has had to take on the offensive burden. Seniors Darxia Morris and Doreena Campbell do most of the ball handling.
The good news for a struggling Cal team is that UCLA isn’t typically a team that will blow you out (though recent Pac-10 results against the Oregon schools and USC might be indicating otherwise). That’s in large part due to their slow style of play and an offense that, while effective, isn’t as elite as their defense. The bad news is that although UCLA won’t blow you out, their defense is such that a 10 point deficit feels like 20. They are just that hard to score on.
For Cal to win today the Bears need to do the following:
Get a composed performance from everybody that will be handling the ball: Layshia Clarendon, Eliza Pierre and Lindsay Sherbert must stay calm, avoid traps and make smart, safe passes whenever they get in trouble. DeNesha Stallworth, Talia Caldwell and Rama N'Diaya must be aware when guards need help and get open to break traps. It will have to be a full team effort.
Force turnovers and score in transition: Scoring before UCLA’s defense sets up in the half court might end up being the most effective form of offense for the Bears. UCLA is a decent ball handling team, but they can be vulnerable to coughing up the ball. This would be a good day to get a vintage, 6 steal afternoon from Eliza Pierre!
Shoot the ball well: OK, that sounds pretty obvious. But considering UCLA’s rebounding prowess and Cal’s rebounding slump, the Bears cannot rely on offensive rebounds to provide multiple second chances. Additionally, UCLA's ability to force turnovers will also cost Cal shots. Field goal attempts will a precious commodity, and Cal must use them well. With the way Cal has shot the ball from 3 lately, it might be a good strategy to stretch UCLA's defense. Hopefully Clarendon and Sherbert hit a few early to give the Bruins something to think about.