No. 15 UCLA beats UC Santa Barbara 66-52
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The UCLA Bruins have a simple goal in mind this season— force turnovers, and lots of them.
Jasmine Dixon and Markel Walker scored 12 points apiece to lead a balanced attack and No. 15 UCLA showed its defensive prowess in a 66-52 win over UC Santa Barbara on Sunday.
“That’s our game plan every time,” Dixon said. “We feed off turnovers.”
Darxia Morris and Atonye Nyingifa each finished with 10 points for the Bruins (2-0), who employed full-court defensive pressure to force 23 turnovers. The Bruins got 14 steals, with six players recording two apiece.
“Each of us was getting hyped on the turnovers we were making,” Dixon said. “It’s like a domino effect.”
And the plan worked accordingly against the overmatched Gauchos, who failed to deal with the Bruins’ intensity on the defensive end.
“This team is a team that relies heavily on defensive pressure,” UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell said. “I thought our starters did a good job of establishing that defensive pressure.”
That pressure was evident as UCLA put on the clamps defensively to open the second half, using an 18-0 run that was capped by Doreena Campbell’s 3-pointer. The scoreless span lasted over five minutes and helped the Bruins to a 55-26 advantage.
The Gauchos hit a 3-pointer coming out of the half but managed just one other basket until Emile Johnson’s layup broke their drought at the 12:20 mark.
“If you want to beat a Top 25 team, you can’t go scoreless for five minutes,” Johnson said.
UCLA hung on from there, emptying the bench and playing mostly reserves the rest of the way to win its home opener.
Johnson led the way with 14 points UCSB (0-2), which fell to 2-12 all-time against UCLA. The Gauchos turned the ball over 14 times in the opening half and managed just 10 assists for the game.
“I feel like on our end, we were sloppy,” UCSB coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “But UCLA is going to force a lot of teams into turnovers.”
Unlike their season opener on Friday night when they fell behind early and trailed at halftime before coming back for a win over San Diego State, the Bruins played out in front for most of this one.
UCLA scored eight straight points, including five from Walker, midway through the first half to go ahead by nine points. They lead 31-21 at halftime.