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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona WBB hits the road to face off against No. 9 UCLA

Esmery+Martinez+of+the+Arizona+Wildcats+bangs+the+drum+after+being+named+player+of+the+game+against+the+Sun+Devils+in+McKale+Center+on+Feb.+4.+Martinez+scored+18+points+and+provided+two+assists+during+the+game.%0A
Jay Corella
Esmery Martinez of the Arizona Wildcats bangs the drum after being named player of the game against the Sun Devils in McKale Center on Feb. 4. Martinez scored 18 points and provided two assists during the game.

The Arizona women’s basketball team is back on the road this week as they prepare to face off against No. 9 UCLA on Friday, Feb. 9, at 9 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom. The Wildcats are coming off their second win of the season against ASU on Sunday, Feb. 4, in McKale Center, where they won 63-52.

Now, Arizona heads into this matchup facing its 7th-ranked opponent of the season, the UCLA Bruins. Arizona (12-10, 4-6 in Pac-12) also sits in 8th place in its conference, and this season is 1-5 against its ranked opponents, with the only win coming against former-No. 15 University of Utah in a tight 71-70 victory for the Wildcats. UCLA (17-4, 6-4 in Pac-12) sits in 5th place in the conference and enters this game coming off a loss to the former-No. 4 Stanford University on Sunday, Feb. 4, when the Cardinal defeated the Bruins 80-60

Both teams enter this matchup with different levels of expectations, with the Bruins looking to keep pace with the top of the conference and the Wildcats looking to find some consistency in their play and build off their most recent victory.

History vs. UCLA

In their impending 88th meeting, Arizona faces an uphill battle against UCLA, given the Bruins’ commanding 64-23 advantage in the all-time series. Over the last 10 encounters, UCLA maintains a slight edge, leading 6-4. The historical context further complicates matters for the Wildcats, as their road struggles against UCLA are evident with a 9-32 record, exacerbated by their current season’s 2-5 performance away from home. This pattern leans heavily in favor of the Bruins as the teams prepare to meet once again. The last matchup between these schools occurred on neutral ground on March 2, 2023, resulting in a 73-59 victory for UCLA.

UCLA’s season

Cori Close, at the helm of UCLA women’s basketball for 13 seasons, assumed the role of The Michael Price Family UCLA women’s head basketball coach on April 21, 2011. Close’s tenure has been marked by steady leadership, guiding the team to a current all-time record of 277-137 with the Bruins.

The 2023-2024 women’s basketball season for UCLA began with the Bruins dominating Purdue University on Nov. 6, 2023, securing a convincing 92-49 victory. The team continued its impressive form on Nov. 9, 2023, trouncing the University of California, Riverside, with a resounding 90-52 win. Maintaining their early-season dominance, UCLA showcased their strength on Nov. 12, 2023, with a commanding 113-64 victory against Bellarmine University. The Bruins also took down former-No. 6 University of Connecticut in its first game of the Cayman Islands Classic on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. The Bruins outlasted the Huskies, winning 78-67 in the top 10 matchup. They went on and closed out November with a perfect 6-0 record after defeating Niagara University on Nov. 25, 2023, with a dominant 97-46 performance.

UCLA carried their undefeated streak into December, securing wins against the University of Arkansas, Cal State University Northridge, former-No. 20 Florida State University and former-No. 13 Ohio State University. Their remarkable start to the season continued in December with victories against the University of Hawai’i and crosstown rival USC, improving to an impressive 11-0 record on Dec.  30, 2023. However, the team faced its first setback on Jan. 14, falling to former-No. 9 USC with a final score of 73-65. Despite suffering two additional losses against former-No. 16 Utah and Washington State University, the Bruins maintained their competitive edge with notable wins against the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley. However, most recently, the Bruins suffered their most devastating loss of the season on Feb. 4, which came against former- No. 4 Stanford in a 80-60 blowout, now, the Bruins look to refocus as they prepare for Arizona this week.

Senior guard Charisma Osborne is one of the Bruins’ top players and current scoring leader with 15.7 ppg and is second on the team in assists with 4.1 per game. Osborne has had four games this season when she didn’t reach double- figure scoring. However, UCLA were able to still secure victories, showcasing this team’s depth and fortitude to pull out victories. Another standout player for the Bruins is sophomore guard KiKi Rice, a versatile playmaker that is averaging 12.4 ppg, fourth-best on the team. Rice also leads the team in both assists (five per game) and steals (two per game). As UCLA prepares to face Arizona, both Osborne and Rice are crucial pieces to helping its team get back into the win column after a tough defeat last week to Stanford.

Wildcats to watch 

The first player to watch for the Wildcats this week is fifth-year guard Helena Pueyo, who remains the team’s most versatile playmaker this season. Leading the Wildcats in assists (3.6) and steals (three), Pueyo has also showcased her proficiency as the team’s best free throw shooter (80%) and 3-point shooter (35.8%). In the recent victory against the Sun Devils, Pueyo delivered a stellar all-around performance, scoring 11 points, six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals. With this impressive display, Pueyo now ties for second in program history in career steals with a total of 266 and ranks 10th in career blocks with 77.

Another key player to keep an eye on is fifth-year forward Esmery Martinez, who has proven to be one of Arizona’s top performers, especially in the face of their limited roster. Martinez played a pivotal role in Arizona’s win over ASU, recording an impressive double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds. This marked Martinez’s fourth double-double of the season and the 37th of her career. As the Wildcats face the Bruins this week, Martinez, the team’s second-leading scorer with 11.3 points per game and leader in rebounds with 6.2 per game, is expected to once again showcase her ability to step up because it will be needed to provide Arizona its best chance to win this upcoming game.


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