UCLA is a power to watch — Teri Moren talks Indiana-UNC matchup — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, Nov. 30, 2022
Happy Basketball Wednesday! I’m coming to you relatively late in the day, thanks to some reporting, a basketball broadcast, and a very special project you’ll be hearing all about tomorrow. But before my head hits the pillow, we need to talk about UCLA.
And the first thing we need to discuss is that while UCLA lost to South Carolina, 73-64, Bruins head coach Cori Close did not look happy. It’s hard to imagine virtually any other coach in the country looking so downcast after a single-digit loss, in Columbia, following a 14-12 season. But Close understands the level of team she has this year, and so should you.
“We have a lot of respect for their program,” a clearly disappointed Close opened her postgame media avail by saying. “But I hope we proved that we didn’t come in here for a moral victory. It’s a balance I’m trying to find with our team — you know, I’m disappointed. We led for 25 minutes, they led for 11 minutes. And we showed a lot of things, but we let a few possessions go and we’ve got to be ticked off about those possessions… And we got to be pissed off about that. And at the same time, I love the heart. And I love the potential, I love the growth that this team showed. And so I think it is very clear that they’re going to grow into something really, really special.”
Just how special is mostly going to be dictated by the supporting cast, because there may not be a more potent 1-2 punch in the country than senior guard Charisma Osborne and freshman forward Kiki Rice. If you didn’t have Rice atop your freshman rankings, that’s okay, but you’re going to need to redo them (though Mara Braun of Minnesota and Ta’Niya Latson of Florida State will be in that conversation all season as well). But in a game that featured the 2023 WNBA top pick unless the earth crashes into the sun, Aliyah Boston, there were large portions of this game in which Rice was the dominant force. She is simultaneously capable of holding down the point so Osborne can create mayhem off the ball, stretching defenses on the wing, and getting to the rim and finishing against bigs, a 5’11 wrecking ball of a player.
And all Charisma Osborne did was score 24 points, aided by 10-for-11 from the line — drawing those fouls against the four-headed monster of Gamecock interior players — and continue to control the game from anywhere on the floor. If anything, her numbers — 20.6 points per game — are artificially low, since she’s only hitting 30 percent of her threes to date, and she’s typically ahead of that pace. But she’s north of 53 percent from two, she’s grabbing 7 rebounds a game as a 5’9 guard, and she’s once more a Cori Close player who is exceeding even the high projections set for her. (Imagine being one of the Power 5 programs who chose another finalist over Close for head coaching positions in the past few years. Imagine trying to sleep at night after that.)
I’d imagine the forthcoming Big Ten money will soon put those potential exits to rest once and for all, especially when UCLA reaps the benefits of the supporting cast Close has built around this duo. Somehow, this is the floor — a team that outran Tennessee and out-toughed Marquette on consecutive days, outlasted South Dakota State and nearly took down the defending champs on their home court. (Fear not, Dawn Staley will figure it out, too — she has until March to make sure teams who limit Aliyah Boston that much pay the price from the perimeter.)
But Cori Close, too, has a whole season, including a cauldron of a Pac-12 conference slate, to mold this young team, whose reputed recruiting level is matched by the early returns. do not be surprised if when we all arrive in Dallas next spring, some variation of UCLA-South Carolina features in the Final Four festivities. And while the smart money is still on the Gamecocks to win it all, I won’t be among those shocked if next time, there’s a different outcome.
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This week in women’s basketball
Five at The IX: Indiana head coach Teri Moren
I joined Teri’s media Zoom previewing the Hoosiers’ game against North Carolina Thursday night at 8:30 PM ET. (You can watch that game with our staff at The Next here on Playback, by the way!) Before we get to Teri, I just want to share the shot chart, via CBBAnalytics.com, of Mackenzie Holmes. Is perfection possible? Maybe not, but this is about as close as it gets.
Anyway, here’s Teri.
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