By Alex Hirschberg — Sports Illustrated Updated Feb 10, 2018 12:14:24 The latest on the UCLA women’s basketball team (3:17 p.m.) and a possible return to the NBA (7:00 p.p.m.): The Bruins are back in action against the Marquette Golden Eagles, and they’re playing with an added emphasis on defense.
This time, they’ll have to defend the rim and protect the paint.
That’s the goal for all of them.
There’s a reason that UCLA has won four national championships in a row, and the team’s defensive identity is what made it so successful.
Now, the Bruins will look to rebound against a good Marquette team that could have a lot of fun on Sunday.
UCLA will need to keep up the defensive pressure, as the Golden Eagles are led by freshman point guard Shai Gilchrist, who has already scored 17 points on 4-of-16 shooting in his first two games.
And the Bruins also got their hands on a few offensive rebounds, thanks to an 18-point first half by sophomore guard Kianz Frohike.
UCLA won’t have many players in the paint, which makes it tough to score.
But the Bruins are able to set up the paint for a lot easier shots by setting screens, pulling up off the dribble and shooting on the move.
That gives them plenty of options for easy baskets.
UCLA shot 58 percent overall, but they also outrebounded the Golden Eagle team 42-25.
There are some areas of the game where UCLA needs to improve.
For one, the Cardinal shot just 27 percent from beyond the arc and didn’t take much advantage of its length to beat Marquette.
It also struggled with rebounding, especially at the rim.
And it was a tough day for freshman guard De’Vaunte Smith, who scored a season-low nine points.
Smith also struggled in the second half, as he missed seven of eight shots and had nine turnovers.
Smith has struggled in recent weeks, averaging just 7.6 points and 3.7 assists in six games.
UCLA needs him to be a better player and more aggressive.
He’s the only freshman on the roster who can play all four positions, which will help them in transition.
Smith will also need to improve his shot selection, as well as his decision-making.
UCLA is shooting just 36 percent from 3-point range, but it’s been a trend of scoring from deep lately.
UCLA isn’t afraid to get into the paint or attack the rim, and it’s worked well to make those shots.
That could make the Cardinal’s defense tougher to defend.
The Bruins shot 44 percent from the field and 41 percent from 2-point field in a loss to Arizona State on Friday.
UCLA was held to 35 percent shooting from beyond that arc in its previous matchup with Arizona State, and that was the only game the Bruins lost by more than 20 points.
It’s difficult for a team to lose when it shoots 40 percent from behind the arc in the first half.
If UCLA can improve its defensive performance in the post and finish, it should be able to get more offensive rebounds and create more opportunities.
UCLA has been good on the boards in recent games, but that could change against the Golden Eagles.
UCLA’s defensive rebounding is second in the Pac-12, but its rebounding margin of victory is fifth.
If it can limit its turnovers and take less shots, it can improve on its defensive rebound percentage.