The UCLA women’s basketball team is back in the Sweet 16 and are looking to snap a recent trend and bring some sweetness to their season.
This is the third year in a row that the UCLA women’s basketball team has made it to the Sweet 16. After running through American and Creighton in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, UCLA is once again part of the last sixteen teams left to dance.
Unfortunately, they have not gotten further than that in their first two tries. Could the third time by the charm?
Two years ago, UCLA rolled into the Sweet 16 with their muscles flexed. This was only a year removed from making a six-game run in the WNIT. Freshman Jordin Canada went off for 31 points in the 2015 WNIT Championship Game, introducing herself to the women’s college basketball world. The Bruins would win some hardware, but they had their eye set on the Big Dance.
The 2015-16 season was turning into one of the best seasons UCLA was having in recent history behind the leadership of Nirra Fields, Jordin Canada and Monique Billings. After thoroughly beating Hawai’i and South Florida in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins jumped all over Texas to start their Sweet 16 performance.
After three quarters (which UCLA had control of), the Bruins had the 54-48 lead and it looked as though they would make it back to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1999.
#3 UCLA vs. #2 Texas Game Day Info – NCAA Tournament, Regional Semis
- #3 UCLA Bruins 26-7, 14-4 (4th Pac-12)
- #2 Texas Longhorns 28-6, 15-3 (2nd Big XII)
- Location: Spring Center, Kansas City, MO
- Tipoff: 6:30 p.m. PT
- TV: ESPN2
- Live Stream: WatchESPN
- On-line Radio: UCLABruins.com (audio)
Unfortuately, the mighty Lonhorns went on a 24-10 run in the final quarter, shooting down UCLA’s chances to dance on. A disappointing end, but a nice lead into what was to come. The Bruins finshed 26-9 that year.
Last season, the Bruins were experiencing something that had been missing for a few seasons… being a top 25 team. With Fields gone, Canada and Billings were leading the team as juniors, and though they had an few tough losses, they were leading the charge through the Pac-12 and the NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins once again made it to the Sweet 16, but getting to the next level would be near impossible as UCLA faced the a juggernaut. Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut Huskies, who were on a record-setting 109-game win streak, and on the path to their 5th consecutive championship, was in the Bruins’ way. UCLA lost, 86-71.
This is clearly something the Bruins do want to make a habit of.
Head coach Cori Close and the women of UCLA basketball have a chance to flip the script tonight when they take on Texas. Winner advences past the Sweet 16, and for the Bruins, who have had an underwhelming season, this would be a notable accomplishment.
But we are not there yet and with all that has happened in the last three seasons, it should serve as motivation for these Bruins to go out at kick women Longhorn tail.
Canada and Billings have to play their best game of the season. On top of that, the role players need to make good decisions and elevate the Bruins in the game
Most importantly, the Bruins need to pace themselves in the second half. They cannot afford to run out of gas in the last frame as they did two years ago against the Longhorns. If anything, that should be the biggest motivating factor, setting the tone and not running out of gas.
Either way, they are going to have to fight, fight, fight to get to that next level. It’s not just going to be handed to them. If they wanted to prove that they can become elite, getting a victory tonight would start them on that path.