December 5, 2023 

Locked On Women’s Basketball: Cori Close, UCLA look like Pac-12’s best team

Lauren Betts makes everyone better, Kiki Rice on the rise, upcoming Pac-12 matchups and much more

On today’s episode of Locked On Women’s Basketball, UCLA head coach Cori Close joins host Howard Megdal to talk about the Bruins’ hot start. As the start of Pac-12 play draws ever closer, UCLA is one of four remaining undefeated teams in the conference, alongside Washington, Oregon State and USC.

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Led by Lauren Betts, Kiki Rice and Charisma Osborne, the Bruins are in the top ten in points per game and field goal percentage. As the conversation began, however, Megdal first asked about the Bruins’ quick pace of play and success in transition.

“What’s forcing us to play fast is that everyone’s triple teaming Lauren Betts,” Close explained. “And so, the best way to get her in one-on-one situations is to do it in transition before people can set their defense. So we tell our team ‘look, we don’t have to play fast off of a made basket, but we can play [better] defense, … find the mismatches and attack the paint in a much more productive fashion, if we can do it in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock … We want to play fast. As long as we can continue to get stops, we’re gonna play that fast.”

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Close and Megdal also discussed Betts’ and Rice’s growth and trajectory as the season continues. The sophomores currently lead the team in scoring and assists, respectively.

About Betts, Close spoke to her versatility at her position, a skill that has become indispensable for forwards at the pro level: “Lauren is very unique and you have to watch her to know this because I don’t think I understood how versatile she really is,” she explained. “Over the next two and a half years, it’s my responsibility to help her extend her range and to do some other things, but we switched all [ball] screens in the second half of the UConn game, which meant that she was out guarding Paige Bueckers at times, and doing it well … [pro teams] need to have versatility, you’re not playing with just a traditional one person, low post, at the WNBA level, and I think that Lauren is not like most centers.”

As for Rice, the two discussed how a combination of Betts’ presence in the post and Rice’s own work over the summer have helped significantly improve her shooting percentage at the rim.

“Her increase in her three point shooting [is] allowing her to shoot such a higher percentage at the rim,” Close explained. “She’s putting the work in, I mean hours and hours — I had to kick her out this summer like you need to rest! I was teasing her after she came back from Spain playing in the [Under-19] World Cup, I said ‘you have got to take some time off.’ But she was so determined that she was going to become a better three point shooter this summer. And that has really transpired … Those things both lead to her now creating more opportunities to do what she really loves to do, which is be a finisher at the rim.”

Tune in to hear more from Close and Megdal about the upcoming Pac-12 season, the Bruins’ toughest games of the season so far, the rise of Gabriela Jaquez and much more. Make sure to subscribe to the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast to keep learning about women’s college basketball, the WNBA, basketball history and much more!

Written by The Next

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