February 5, 2023
UCLA searching for answers amid longest losing streak of their season
The Bruins have lost three games in a row, all one-possession games to ranked Pac-12 opponents
LOS ANGELES — As No. 14 UCLA head coach Cori Close sat at the podium for the Bruins postgame media availability following a tough overtime loss at home to No. 22 Arizona, she had a strained look on her face.
The 71-67 loss brought UCLA’s losing streak to three games. Prior to that, the Bruins had yet to lose consecutive games all season.
“This is where our character is really tested. We say our culture is really strong, there’s a phrase that we use all the time, I told the team in the locker room, ‘Sometimes you, sometimes me, always us,'” Close said. “The reality is that’s easier to say when different people step up and you win games. That’s harder to be committed to when you lose games.
“Three games in a row of one-possession games, that’s on me.”
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Against the Wildcats, the Bruins got off to a strong start and built up a 28-16 lead early against the No. 22 team in the country. Although the Wildcats would claw back into the game, the Bruins used a strong fourth quarter to build up another double-digit lead only to see the Wildcats force overtime and the game slip away.
Late game execution was an issue as it was in the Bruins’ losses against then-No. 25 Colorado and then-No. 9 Utah. Against the Buffaloes, UCLA brushed off a strong Colorado third quarter to battle back in the fourth and force overtime, but they shot only 1-5 from the field in the extra period. Against the Utes, the Bruins gave up a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter as Utah came from behind to win.
Despite the Bruins longest losing streak of the season, they’re not approaching this stretch as if the sky is falling. When it comes down to it, each of the losses where to ranked opponents and all came down to the final possessions.
“To have three games in a row by one possession and they lose, ultimately we just all have to go back to the drawing board and be like okay this is all about how much can we learn when it really, really hurts so that we’re playing our best basketball during the actual tournament,” Close said. “That’s really what it comes down to. How can we get better? We use this pain to help us get better.”
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In terms of getting better and using these losses to draw up a blueprint for success moving forward, one place to start would be the play of backup point guard Londynn Jones. In each of these three losses, Jones has been one of the team’s bright spots. Against the Utes she had a team-high 14 points off the bench. She previously added 10 against the Buffaloes and she saved her best performance of the week against the Wildcats with a team-high 20 points.
During that stretch, Jones has shot 10-of-16 from 3-point range and has continued to give the Bruins a spark off the bench when they’ve needed it, despite being a freshman and often times the smallest player on the court. After the loss to Arizona, Jones forcefully affirmed that, even though UCLA has a very young roster, this group is ready to move on and get back in the win column.
“Every loss is a learning opportunity so we just kind of have to put everything together … It takes time, we have a young team, but we’re all experienced. We’ve had multiple games where we can figure it out, put it together but it has to be together,” Jones said. “It has to be together and that’s the biggest thing. Using every day as an opportunity to get better and coming together and figuring this out. It happens but we’ll figure it out.”
The Bruins have also received strong play from third-year forward Emily Bessior who has had a bounce-back season after missing all of last year with an ACL injury. Two years ago, Bessior was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team after displaying high upside. She’s reminded everyone of the player she was before the injury.
She’s averaged 14.3 points per game over the last three games and has shot 53.9 percent from the field. She’s probably best suited as a power forward but she’s been UCLA’s starting center and her ability to space the floor with her three-point shooting has been a big part of the Bruins offensive attack.
Although she missed all of last season, she is one of the longest-tenured players on the roster and she echoed both Close and Jones’ sentiments about being able to put these losses in the rearview and get ready for tomorrow.
“I think going forward we just have to continue to find ways to finish games and put them together … The last three games they’re all lost on just a few possessions. And I know we have a young team and a lot of freshmen and younger players playing a lot of minutes, but it’s our responsibility if we’re going to be doing that to be able to make the right plays,” Bessoir said. “I think we can’t blame it on our youth and our inexperience. At this point, we’ve had enough opportunity and plenty of time, so we just need to get it done.”
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Written by David Yapkowitz
David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.
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