Saturday, December 4

Focus is foremost in women’s basketball practices

Coach Nikki Caldwell stresses the importance of consistency, leadership in games and practice

UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell has expressed dissatisfaction in her team for miscues in a number of areas, including ball security, free-throw shooting, overall execution and maintaining focus. The team hosts the Oregon schools this weekend in Pauley. Shalev Netanel

If you would have attended the UCLA women’s basketball practice Tuesday afternoon, you would have never thought that coach Nikki Caldwell’s squad won their last two games.

Not with the way Caldwell was addressing her team.

After witnessing a practice riddled with nicely-executed offensive sets being immediately outshone by numerous sloppy turnovers, Caldwell finally stopped everything.

She had had enough.

Caldwell then proceeded to scold her team about their inconsistency on offense, calling out several players in the process. She ended practice by reiterating to her team that those who perform in practice will be the ones to play in the game. The team then huddled while Caldwell and her assistants walked to the sidelines visibly frustrated with what Caldwell calls, “a lack of focus,” especially on offense.

“It is, it’s exactly that,” Caldwell said. “We got some players, because our offense is ran where certain players have certain responsibilities in getting into our action, that when they break down, it breaks down our entire system. Our system is predicated on all five people doing their job.”

And according to Caldwell, very seldom are all five players on the court for the Bruins, in practice or in the game, putting in the same amount of effort, something Caldwell attributes to a lack of leadership on the floor.

“I think with this group it’s a matter of, we got to have better leaders on the floor “¦ and we don’t have that,” Caldwell said. “We are lacking the leadership aspect of it.”

Leadership is something that Caldwell has been preaching all season, but recently, Caldwell has added some new items to her list of grievances, primarily turnovers. As a team, the Bruins are averaging more turnovers than assists per game, committing 16.7 giveaways as opposed to 14.1 assists.

“I think that we turn the ball over entirely too much,” Caldwell said. “A lot of traveling calls have been called on us. We got to do a much better job of being efficient in the half court.”

The second issue Caldwell stressed recently is the foul line where, on average, UCLA is giving their opponents more than 14 free throws per game.

“The other thing that we can control is that we foul too much,” Caldwell said. “We’re putting teams at the free throw line 20 plus times a game. In that regard, I think we do kind of put ourselves at a disadvantage.”

But despite the recent setbacks, the Bruins have won their last two games, sweeping the Washington schools on the road over this past weekend, including a hard-fought victory at Washington, a game in which UCLA trailed in the second half.

Nonetheless, Caldwell was pleased with her team’s resilience in coming back and winning an important conference game on the road, and she attributed that resilience to the experience the Bruins gained in their non-conference schedule earlier this season.

“It showed us that we do have a fight in us,” Caldwell said. “We were able to come from behind. We almost lost the lead but we maintained it. I think our non-conference schedule has also helped us be a better road team this year.”

The weekend sweep was the second Pac-10 road sweep for UCLA on the season, as the Bruins swept Arizona and Arizona State three weeks ago. But the first half of the Pac-10 season is not necessarily what Caldwell is concerned with, especially with her young team.

“We got to know that in the second go-around, everybody’s going to be raising their game, so we’ve got to be able to match that intensity,” Caldwell said.

Campbell gets a break

Junior guard Doreena Campbell was allowed to sit out Tuesday’s practice, not due to injury, but for recuperation purposes.

“Sometimes during the season, kids get a little banged up and we want to just make sure she’s ready to go because she’s got a tough weekend,” Caldwell said.

Campbell is the Bruins’ starting point guard, averaging 10.3 points per game. She scored a season-high 21 points Saturday against the Huskies.

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