Heading into Los Angeles’ Pauley Pavilion to face the UCLA Bruins, Washington’s mission was clear.
The Huskies would need to stop the higher scoring and faster-paced Bruins from turning the game into a track meet, by controlling the defensive boards and shutting down attacks inside the painted area.
Huskies Tried to Run Early But It Backfired
The Washington Huskies established that they were a slow-paced team in nonconference play, as the Huskies recorded an average of 84.6 points per 100 possessions.
By a wide margin, the Huskies pace was the lowest total of any PAC-12 team during nonconference play — the second lowest pace was WSU’s 92.2 points per 100 possessions.
However, the UW Huskies tried to flip the script early on the Bruins by running upon every opportunity.
Despite the concerted effort in the first two quarters, the Huskies did not convert any fastbreak opportunities — finishing with zero fastbreak points at halftime.
In the second half, the Dawgs only mustered up four fastbreak points.
Predictably, the fastbreak battle ended decidedly in UCLA’s favor, as the Bruins scored 11 points in transition overall – – compared to UW’s four (4) fastbreak points.
(Likewise, Washington’s four shot-clock violations were a further sign of offensive dysfunction – – three of which occurred when the score was within three points or less — but i digress.)
UCLA Inside Offense Ransacks UW’s House
UCLA overcame a very poor shooting night by taking their offense inside the guts of Washington’s defense.
The Bruins seemed to roam freely around the basket, scoring in the paint with multiple putbacks or layups.
Overall, UCLA finished with 36 points in the paint, including 28 points off of layups.
UCLA’s 64.1% shooting on two-pointers helped them overcome 20% shooting from three-point range.
Conversely, Washington shot 42.9% from three-point range, yet made only 36.4% of two-point attempts inside the arc.
Washington’s ineffectiveness inside also extended to their rebounds battle with UCLA.
The smaller Bruins dominated the Huskies on the boards by collecting 32 rebounds compared to Washington’s 22 rebounds.
Huskies Lose War of Turnovers
The UCLA Bruins’ offense looked very sloppy and disorganized, especially during the first half.
Accordingly, the Bruins finished with 14 turnovers.
The Huskies’ turnover bug was bigger, however, as they committed 19 turnovers for the game (although, less than their nonconference average of 21.1 turnovers per game).
This resulted in 18 points for the Bruins from Huskies’ turnovers; as compared to only 12 points for the Huskies off of UCLA turnovers.
Washington’s 19 turnovers were offset by only 13 assists which resulted in a very poor 0.87 Assist-to-Turnover ratio.
Huskies Have Block Party of One
Entering the contest, the Huskies were averaging 5.5 blocks per game.
Indeed, Nancy Mulkey was averaging 3.8 blocks per game alone, but she (and the Huskies, overall) managed only one block against the Bruins.
Thus, as we enter PAC-12 play, our early concern rears its head, i.e., that despite her huge shot-blocking success and defensive prowess at Rice,
It should be noted that, Darcy Rees, an experienced veteran, played a total of eight (8) minutes and recorded one steal.
In her last full season (2019-2020), Rees’ individual defensive ranking ranked in the Top 18% of all Division One defenders; and she averaged 1.4 blocks per game.
If Darcy is healthy, she can upgrade the defense so it doesn’t have to always be Mulkey as the only defensive presence — Rees playing alongside Nancy Mulkey should be an option for Coach Langley.
On a positive note, the Washington Huskies did manage to reach their average of seven (7) steals per game – – led by Trinity Oliver and Haley Van Dyke with two thefts each,.
Huskies Didn’t Press Their Advantage
It was well known before game time that UCLA would only have seven scholarship players available against the Huskies due to injuries.
Clearly, UCLA would need to rely heavily on its two starting guards, Charisma Osborne and Jaelynn Penn.
So it was puzzling that the Huskies did not turn up the defensive pressure on the Bruins throughout the game.
Both Osborne (35 minutes) and Penn (34 minutes) played almost the entire game.
However, the Huskies never used defensive pressure (e.g., full court pressure, trapping, etc.) to get the ball out of the hands of the Bruins guards or at least slow them down.
Instead, Charisma Osborne and Jaelynn Penn ran loose all night combining for 42.8% of the Bruins total points with 11 points and 16 points, respectively; as well as a combined 7 assists.
The Huskies are going to have to be more creative defensively to succeed in the PAC-12; relying on Mulkey to intimidate and disrupt PAC-12 offenses by herself is not realistic.
Finally, despite UW being much deeper and talented than a depleted UCLA, the Huskies managed to only play eight players to UCLA’s seven (except for one minute at the end of the game for Olivia Pollerd and Jayda Noble). When it mattered, the Huskies didn’t play any of their true freshman or redshirt freshman Nia Lowery, which played right into the hands of the undermanned UCLA squad.
Washington Huskies Player of the Game
Despite going scoreless in the fourth quarter, under increased scrutiny from Bruins defenders, Haley Van Dyke finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals for the Dawgs.