The teams from Southern California are coming to Maples this week: UCLA on Friday evening at 8:00 and USC on Sunday afternoon at 4:00.
Both games will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks and broadcast by KZSU.
Note that what may be the most interesting Pac-12 game of the week (UCLA at Cal) is on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 and will be televised by ESPNU.
UCLA had a great non-conference season. They had a very tough schedule and lost just two games — a "good loss" to No. 5 Notre Dame and an inexplicable one to Cal State Northridge. Their successes included wins over two other ranked teams — No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 12 Texas.
They've continued their success in conference play with four wins, albeit over the fairly weak Oregon and Washington teams.
They've been among the Top 25 in the national polls since the third week of the season. They're currently ranked No.14/15.
The Bruins got a new coach last season (Cori Close), but they didn't get a new persona. They haven't become the "nice girls of Westwood". They're very strong inside and are excellent defenders. They lead the Pac-12 in rebounding, both in total rebounds (46.2 per game) and in offensive rebounds (16.2 per game). Their strong defense includes the most steals in the Pac-12 (12.2 per game).
The Bruins are also excellent on offense, although in somewhat unusual ways:
- They shoot from beyond the arc far less than any other Pac-12 team. On average, they try only ten long shots per game and make three of them.
- Their shooting percentage is good, although not outstanding (42.7%), but they grab a lot of their missed shots and put them back in.
- Their free throw percentage is poor (68.1%), but they draw a lot of fouls and make the most free throws in the Pac-12 (14.8 per game).
- They don't have a stand-out scorer. Most of their scoring comes from five players who average from 9.9–12.9 points per game.
It all adds up to 73.3 points per game — the best in the Pac-12.
The Bruins run an 8–9 player rotation. These are the most productive players:
- #23, 6'1" senior guard/forward Markel Walker leads the Bruins in scoring (12.9 ppg), steals (3.5 spg, best in the Pac-12) and assists (5.6 apg, best in the Pac-12) and is one of their two best rebounders (8.3 rpg). She's always been a strong, skilled player for the Bruins and has improved her ball-handling greatly this season. Her assist/turnover ratio is a good 1.4, up from 0.8 last season.
- #11, 5'11" redshirt junior forward Atonye Nyingifa is a dependable contributor to the Bruins' strong inside game. She's their second-best scorer (10.9 ppg) and third-best rebounder (7.6 rpg) and has started every game this season.
- #32, 6'3" redshirt senior forward Alyssia Brewer sat out last season after transferring from Tennessee and is off to a hot start as a Bruin. She comes off the bench and is their other best rebounder (8.4 rpg) and third-best scorer (10.8 ppg).
- #1, 5'7" junior guard Thea Lemberger has started every game this season and is the Bruins' best shooter. She takes about 40% of her shots from beyond the arc and makes 40% of them. She averages 10.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
- #21, 5'9" freshman guard Nirra Fields brought a lot of basketball experience to college — she played for Canada's national 17U and 19U teams. She comes off the bench for a bit more than 20 minutes per game and averages 9.9 points and 3.6 rebounds.
These players complete the Bruins' usual rotation:
- #33, 6'0" redshirt senior forward Jasmine Dixon missed all of last season after tearing her Achilles tendon and is slowly returning to the All-American form she showed in 2011-2012. She's averaging 8.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the season. She has started the last four games and tallied a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) in last week's game against Washington.
- #14, 5'4" senior guard Mariah Williams has started in the Bruins' last five games. She averages 4.1 points and 2.4 assists per game.
- #2, 5'9" freshman guard Kari Korver has started in the Bruins' last four games. She was a great 3-point shooter in high school and is doing pretty well in college. 80% of her shots have been from beyond the arc, and she's made a third of them. She averages 4.0 points per game.
- #10, 6'3" sophomore forward Kacy Swain averages 4.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
The Bruin bench has been shortened by several injuries. Junior center Corinne Costa has missed the last seven games since suffering a head injury in mid-December. Freshman guard Lauren Holiday has suffered head injuries twice this season and is not expected to return. Junior forward Rhema Gardner had knee surgery in October and is redshirting this season.
UCLA's win-loss record (13-2 overall, 4-0 conference) places them first in the Pac-12, their RPI (14) places them third, and their strength of schedule rank (44) places them fourth.
USC has recovered well from a six-game losing streak in non-conference play with four conference wins, but it's not likely that they'll stay in the top tier of the Pac-12.
The Trojans have two players (Harberts and Crook) who have scored exactly half of the team's points. No other player averages more than six points a game and the team's field goal percentage is just 37.2 (ninth in the Pac-12). They're tenth in the Pac-12 in points scored and eleventh in points scored by their opponents.
According to USC's game notes, the starters for the Bay Area games will be:
- #11, 6'2" junior forward Cassie Harberts leads the Trojans in scoring (17.9 ppg, third-best in the Pac-12) and rebounds (7.9 rpg, #8 in the Pac-12). She's scored in double digits in every game and has six double-doubles.
- #10, 6'4" junior forward Kate Oliver averages 6.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. She sat out last season after transferring from Marist.
- #23, 5'7" freshman guard Brianna Barrett runs the point for the Trojans. She averages just over three assists per game with a good assist/turnover ratio (1.4). She scores 5.3 points per game.
- #21, 6'1" sophomore forward Alexyz Vaioletama averages 4.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
- #32, 6'1" sophomore guard Kiki Alofaituli averages 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
The Trojans have four other players who play more than a few minutes per game.
- #14, 5'7" sophomore guard Ariya Crook comes off the bench and is the Trojan's second-most productive player with an average of 13.2 points per game. She takes a lot of shots, a bit more than half of them from beyond the arc, but makes only 35% of them. (Watch out, though! She made six of ten 3-pointers in the game against Washington last week.) She also averages 3.3 rebounds per game.
- #0, 6'1" senior forward Christina Marinacci, the Trojans' only senior, was in the starting lineup for their first eleven games, but hasn't played at all in the last two. It's been reported that she is injured, but not how badly. She's been the Trojans' second-best rebounder with 6.1 per game and has scored 5.7 points per game.
- #3, 6'1" junior guard Desireé Bradley averages 2.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. She takes almost 80% of her shots from beyond the arc, but makes only 30% of them.
- #22, 5'11" freshman guard Destinie Gibbs averages 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.
The Trojans have lost a valuable reserve, freshman guard Jordan Adams, to injury. She's out for the season after having surgery for a series of shoulder injuries.
USC's win-loss record (7-8 overall, 4-0 conference) places them second in the Pac-12, their RPI (132) places them tenth, and their strength of schedule rank (90) places them ninth.