Pac-10 Conference Play Kicks Off For Bruins In Desert

Dec. 26, 2007

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Gameday Central
DATE: Fri., Dec. 28 at Arizona State
GAME TIME: 6:30 pm MT
GAME SITE: Wells Fargo Arena (14,141)
AUDIO: (free)
TALENT: Dave Marcus (play-by-play), Jamila Veasley (color)

DATE: Sun., Dec. 30 at Arizona
GAME TIME: 2:00 pm MT
GAME SITE: McKale Center (14,545)
AUDIO: (free)
TALENT: Dave Marcus (play-by-play), Jamila Veasley (color)

Bruins Travel To Desert For Pac-10 Opener
UCLA (5-6) kicks off Pac-10 Conference play this weekend with a pair of games in Arizona. The Bruins will first play at Arizona State (6-5) on Friday, Dec. 28 at 6:30 pm MT before heading to Tucson to play Arizona (6-5) on Sunday, Dec. 30 at 2 pm.

UCLA is 13-8 all-time in Pac-10 openers and has won its last three, including last season's 77-68 overtime win against 15th-ranked California.

Friday's game against Arizona State will be UCLA's fourth consecutive against a 2006-07 NCAA Tournament team and sixth in seven games against teams that played in the post-season last year. After this week's games at Arizona, UCLA still has another three-game stretch against NCAA tournament teams more games in Stanford, California and Washington.

Two Bruin players are averaging in double-figures, led by senior Lindsey Pluimer (14.5 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game). Freshman Nina Earl also averages in double digits with a 10.5 mark. Three other members of UCLA's freshman class are just shy of averaging in double figures - Doreena Campbell, 8.8 ppg; Darxia Morris, 8.7; and Regina Rogers, 8.5 ppg. UCLA averages 74.5 points per game, and last week's scoring average of 75.4 points per game ranked 12th in the nation.

Family Reunion For Ibekwes
Sunday's game against Arizona will give UCLA junior center Chinyere Ibekwe a chance to play against her younger sister Ify for the first time in their collegiate careers. Chinyere has played in eight games for UCLA this season, averaging 2.5 points and 2.6 rebounds. Ify, a freshman forward, has played in 11 games with three starts and is averaging 11.6 points and a team-leading 7.8 rebounds per game.

About Arizona State
Arizona State enters Friday's contest with a 6-5 record and have dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since the end of the 2004-05 season. The Sun Devils have played a grueling non-conference schedule, going 0-4 against ranked teams. ASU has been ravaged with injuries, with many of their top players missing playing time. The latest casualty was guard Jill Noe, who injured her ankle in the Sun Devils' last game. Her status for this weekend is unknown. Danielle Orsillo has played just one game this season due to a bruised bone in her knee.

Pre-season All-Pac-10 selection Briann January leads the team in scoring at 11.9 points per game and averages 4.73 assists per game. Also averaging in double figure scoring are Lauren Lacey (10.7) and Jill Noe (10.1).

Last season, Arizona State advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight and finished with a 31-5 overall record.

UCLA leads the all-time series with Arizona State, 41-21, but lost all three contests a year ago. In 2005-06, the Bruins won two of three, including a victory in the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. UCLA has not won in Tempe since taking a 60-58 victory on Jan. 16, 2003.

About Arizona
Arizona enters the week with a 6-5 record and has won four of its last five games. The Wildcats will host USC on Friday before welcoming the Bruins on Sunday.

The Wildcats are led by senior Ashley Whisonant, who averages 14.6 points per game (fifth-best in the Pac-10) and a Pac-10-leading 4.91 assists per game. Also in double figures are Ify Ibekwe (11.6 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game) and Amina Njonkou (11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds).

UCLA leads the overall series, 39-19, and has won three of the last four, including two in a row in Tucson. The two teams split last year, with each winning on the road by three points. UCLA won in Tucson, 76-73, on Jan. 20, and Arizona won in Pauley Pavilion, 66-63, on Feb. 15.

Fresh Faces
The Bruin freshmen, ranked as the No. 4 recruiting class by, have been as good as advertised, playing pivotal roles on the team. Five of the six freshmen have played in all 11 games, while the sixth has played in seven. Doreena Campbell joins senior Lindsey Pluimer as the only Bruins to start all 11 games. Regina Rogers and Darxia Morris have started eight games, and Nina Earl has started two. Campbell leads the Bruins in assists (37) and minutes played (29.4 average) and entered the week as the Pac-10 leader in assist/turnover ratio (2.06). Morris owns the team lead in steals with 23. Rogers ranks second on the team in rebounding (4.7 average), and Candice Brown leads the team with a .615 (8-13) field goal percentage. Twice in the last four games, five freshmen have been on the court at the same time for the Bruins.

Pluimer Powers Bruins
UCLA's lone senior, forward Lindsey Pluimer, continues to lead the Bruins both on and off the court. Pluimer, a 2007-08 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award nominee, two-time Academic All-District selection and 2006-07 All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection, has started every game since her freshman season for a total of 103 career starts. Pluimer is one of just seven Bruins to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 60 blocked shots for a career, and she is one of 16 Bruins to have scored at least 1,000 points and pulled down at least 500 rebounds for her career.

Pluimer is set to move up considerably in the UCLA record books. She currently ranks 14th in career scoring with 1,277 points and also has 622 career rebounds, which moved her into UCLA's all-time Top 15. Two more blocked shots will move her from eighth to seventh on the career list. Pluimer currently has 72.

Mo Better
Sophomore center Moniquee Alexander has shown tremendous improvement in the last two starts against Tennessee and UC Riverside, Against the Lady Vols, Alexander scored a career-high 11 points on 5-5 shooting from the field. She equaled her point total against UCR, scoring 11 points and pulling down a season-high seven rebounds.

Campbell Nationally-Ranked
Guard Doreena Campbell has played more like a veteran than a freshman, averaging 8.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.7 steals and just 1.6 turnovers per game in 11 starts. She was ranked 13th in the nation in assist/turnover ratio last week and was the top-ranking freshman in the nation in that category. Campbell is first on the team in assists (37) and minutes played (29.4 average). She recorded seven steals in the season opener at Cal State Northridge.

Rebounding Rogers
Freshman center Regina Rogers totaled 16 rebounds on Nov. 28 at Pepperdine, including 10 on the offensive end. Her 16 rebounds were the most by a Bruin player since Kristee Porter had 16 boards against Arizona on Jan. 20, 2001. Rogers is second on the team in rebounds per game (4.7 average) and offensive rebounds (25).

Her Name Is Earl
Freshman forward Nina Earl has been making a name for herself in her freshman season, ranking second on the Bruin squad in scoring with a 10.5 points per game average. Earl has scored in double figures seven times on the year, with a high of 17 points in a starting role against Cal Poly. Earl leads UCLA's regulars in field goal percentage, connecting on 49.5% of her shots and is the team leader in three-point field goal percentage at 57.1% (4-7). She also ranks second on the team in free throw attempts with 35.

Pasadena Pride
Former teammates at Pasadena's John Muir HS, Tierra Henderson and Darxia Morris have paired up once again in UCLA's backcourt. Henderson, a junior, and Morris, a freshman, have started together in four of UCLA's last five games. They rank 1-2 on the team in steals, with Morris totaling 23 and Henderson 20. Morris also ranks second on the team in assists with 34 while averaging 8.7 points per game. Henderson has long been known as the Bruins' defensive sparkplug, but she has also upped her offensive game this year, averaging 7.5 points and leading the team in scoring with a career-high 15 at Pepperdine.

Henderson and Morris aren't the only high school teammates on the Bruin squad - freshmen Christina Nzekwe and Regina Rogers were teammates at Chief Sealth HS in Seattle, WA from 2004-07.

First Starts
Four of the five players to earn the starting nod from coach Kathy Olivier in the opener at Cal State Northridge made their first collegiate starts.Sophomores Erica Tukiainen and Moniquee Alexander made their first career starts at Northridge. Tukiainen appeared in all 32 games last season off the bench. Alexander saw action in 31 games last season, but did not start a contest.

True freshmen Darxia Morris and Doreena Campbell each merited a starting assignment in their first games. It was the first time a Bruin team has started as many as two true freshmen in the first game of a season since the 2002-03 season when Julia Pitts and Nikki Blue were in the starting lineup at Hawaii. The last time the Bruins put out a starting lineup that included more than two freshmen in the starting lineup in the season opener was in the 1996-97 opener against St. Mary's when four freshmen, including three true freshmen, took the floor for the jump (true freshmen - Melanie Pearson, Maylana Martin, Carly Funicello; redshirt freshman Takiyah Jackson).

In game two against Rice, the Bruins started three freshmen - center Regina Rogers and guards Campbell and Morris. Rogers made her first career start in the Rice game. The same group started at Pepperdine. Another freshman received her first starting assignment in game three against Cal Poly, as Nina Earl joined two other classmates (Rogers and Campbell) in the starting lineup.

The Bruins have utilized six different starting lineups in the 10 games this year and have used the same lineup in back-to-back games just four times.

The Bruins ended non-conference play on a high note, defeating UC Riverside, 71-60, on Dec. 21. UCLA got off to a fast start, taking a 24-4 lead with 10:02 to play in the half. UCR fought back to pull to within one late in the first half before UCLA ended the half up by five. The Bruins opened the second half with an 8-2 run to increase the lead to 11 and found answers each time the Highlanders threatened. UCLA scored six straight points over the final 2:17 to seal the win. Lindsey Pluimer led the Bruins with her third double-double of the year (16 points/10 rebounds), and Moniquee Alexander scored a career-best 11 points for the second-straight contest.

Top-Ranked Vols Top Bruins
UCLA gave another Top 3 team a run for its money, this time challenging the top-ranked Lady Vols in a 82-70 defeat. The Bruins held a four-point lead late in the first half before Tennessee snatched the lead back just before halftime, 32-31. The Lady Vols hit nine of their first 11 shots from the field in the second half to help pull away from the Bruins before another late UCLA charge trimmed the lead to nine with three minutes to go. Lindsey Pluimer led UCLA with 16 points, and Moniquee Alexander scored a career-high 11.

Challenging '07-08 Schedule
The Bruins have already played host to the past two NCAA championship teams this when it welcomed 2005-06 title holder Maryland on Nov. 25 and 2006-07 champ Tennessee on Dec. 19 to Pauley Pavilion.

In all, the Bruins will battle five teams which won their conference or conference tournaments a year ago - Tennessee (SEC), BYU (Mountain West), UC Riverside (Big West), Stanford (Pac-10), Idaho State (Big Sky).Nine opponents advanced to play in the NCAA Tournament in 2007 - Maryland, Idaho State, BYU, Tennessee, UC Riverside, Arizona State, Stanford, Cal, and Washington - and three more played in the WNIT - Rice, San Diego, and Oregon. Beginning on the first of December with a game against Idaho State, the Bruins will face nine teams in an 11-game stretch which advanced to post-season play during the 2006-07 season.

Three UCLA opponents are currently ranked in the Top 5 in the current AP rankings - No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Tennessee and No. 5 Maryland.

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