Texas A&M and UCLA set for second round matchup
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Say this for Texas A&M, it’s unlikely to find UCLA letting down no matter how far the Bruins might go up in their second round game.
When a team puts together a record 21-point comeback like the Aggies did in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 63-61 opening-round victory over Penn, it tends to get an opponent’s attention.
“My first thought was, they are tough,” said UCLA guard Jordin Canada. “And they battle. We have to know they’re not going to give up.”
The fourth-seeded Bruins (24-8) had a comparatively easy time in their 83-56 victory Saturday over Boise State, while the fifth-seeded Aggies (23-12) looked headed for a huge upset after falling behind 58-37 with 8:54 to play.
Then A&M closed the game by outscoring the Quakers 26-3.
“That was about a sense of urgency,” said A&M coach Gary Blair.
Here are five things to watch for in Monday’s game.
Features a superb showdown between two of the best in the country. Texas A&M senior Curtyce Knox averaged 9.21 assists per game, the most for any Division I player since the 2010-11 season. She also averaged 10.9 points per game, hitting 38.4 percent of her 3-pointers.
Canada leads the Bruins in scoring (17.9), assists (6.9) and steals (2.6), while averaging 5.3 rebounds.
“It’s going to be about what point guard can control the game better and get their teammates involved the most,” Canada said. “I mean we love to pass the ball, both of us, we both take over when we need to. It’s going to be a fun matchup.”
Knox said she is looking forward to the matchup.
“She’s probably the quickest point guard I’ve played against this year,” Knox said. “I’m very excited.”
Both teams like to run, and whoever wins the point guard battle, may determine which team is most effective in the transition game. Fastbreaks do not figure to be in short supply.
“We’re going to put in a lot of people and make them run,” said UCLA coach Cori Close.
Depth could come into play, though both teams like to use only about seven players.
“We’ve got to use our depth, we’ve got to play fast,” Close said. “That’s when we play at our best.”
Not that A&M will concede the running game.
“We’ve got to run and get some easy baskets,” Blair said. “We were only 11 of 52 from outside against Penn. That’s not good for a middle-school team.”
Texas A&M outrebounded Penn 16-6 in the fourth quarter to help ignite its comeback. Despite a size advantage, the Bruins were outrebounded 39-37 by Boise State.
“Boise State got too many offensive rebounds especially in the second half,” Canada said. “That’s something we need to really work on, especially against Texas A&M.”
UCLA has one great advantage the Aggies cannot do a thing about. The Bruins have won 28 consecutive home games.
“It’s definitely an advantage,” Close said. “Our players feel a lot of confidence playing at home, for whatever reason.
The Aggies’ 6-5 center was nearly unstoppable when she got the ball deep against Penn, finishing with 27 points. She leads A&M in scoring at 16.5 points per game, while averaging 8.2 rebounds.
The Bruins have no true center, though 6-4 Monique Billings (16.8 points, 10.6 rebounds) has been a force around the basket.
Close said UCLA can’t wait to double Hilllsman after she gets the ball.
“She’s not just a power player,” Close said. “Her wheel move in the post is real nice. She finishes with both hands. Not only is it going to be a key for how we defend her early, but also, we have to make her defend us up and down.”