FINAL REGULAR SEASON RECORD:
7-11 in the Pac-12 Conference, good for 8th place
LEADING SCORER: Atonye Nyingfa, 18.4 points per game
LEADING REBOUNDER: Nyingfa, 8.7 rebounds per game
For a team that was playing shorthanded in a hobbled kind of way all season long, the coach Cori Close and her women’s basketball program at UCLA should be commended for winning as many games as they did.
Of course, no one in their right mind thinks a 13-17 overall record and a 7-11 Pac-12 mark is good by any means.
No one thinks that losing eight of their last 11 – which these Lady Bruins did to close the conference schedule – is an accomplishment.
And everyone can see that with nearly a third of their team out for the year due to either injury or concussion issues, UCLA had only seven players available at tines and were exhausted during the home stretch.
Plus to add to all the troubles that these ladies had in Westwood this season, it was recently discovered that point guard Thea Lemberger, one of the team leaders and bright spots with her 15 points and four assists a game, was playing with a stress fracture in her leg throughout the year.
With all that adversity, the Bruins could have easily tanked and ended up at 7-23 or 6-24 or something like that.
But the fact that they kept playing hard and competing said much about their character, which is a huge credit to coach Close and her staff.
Guard Nirra Fields, who was second to Nyingfa in points (17.4) per contest was, like Lemberger, another bright spot, and though her 6.4 points average was nothing to get ecstatic about, forward/center Corinne Costa finished second on the team in rebounds per game with her 7.1, and with her 50 blocked shots broke Ann Meyers‘ record of 101.
The reason why fans didn’t really sour on this team despite its sub-par season, besides the fact that they were playing with one hand tied behind their back due to the injuries, is this:
Help is on the way, as Close has signed the nation’s top recruiting class, their first in program history, led by Los Angeles Windward High’s Jordin Canada.
That’s why Bruin Nation expects a turnaround, in the form of contending for the Pac-12 title and a strong seed in the NCAA tournament, next year.
As for this year, however, even though it’s not their fault, let’s get real…
If this season doesn’t end for these UCLA Lady Bruins this coming Thursday against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament, it will – barring a miracle rivaling David slaying Goliath – end the next day where, if they beat the Buffaloes, they will face 4th-ranked and regular season champ (again) Stanford.
So while there is much to look forward to, while this by any means has been a season to forget, these ladies should be given credit and props for their fortitude and resilience.
Sometimes that’s more important than a Final Four berth or a national championship.