Pac-12 12 things: Point Bobi, early notes on UCLA, ASU


12 things on another week of Pac-12 women’s basketball, taking you up to the start of this weekend’s Thanksgiving showcases and tournaments. (More on those next week.)

1. Bruins playing through a different duo

The sky didn’t fall for UCLA after dropping their opener to Loyola Marymount. Kennedy Burke and Michaela Onyenwere will give this team the advantage at the forward spots on most nights. That was on full display over then-14th ranked Georgia. Burke has looked very smooth getting to the rim with either hand.

2. Burke finding the range

Burke’s 3-point stroke also looks smoother thus far, which would be a huge boost to this team and her draft stock. Whatever Burke’s workout plan was this offseason, more people need to be doing it.

3. Onyenwere beasting on the block

UCLA’s super sophomore forward plays with a short memory. It’s a meaningful compliment considering her physical tools and the outlook for UCLA’s season. They need her want to push her own limits. Doing so could be the key that propels this team to a surprise NCAA Tournament bid.

Even in a more limited role last season, Onyenwere’s resolve to make the simple plays made her a very valuable player as a true freshman. Leaving her open? She’ll step into open jumpers. Let her get a deep post catch? She’s going up with it, or will run right over you trying to do it.

4. Blocks of the week: Onyenwere and Lauryn Miller

It looked like Onyenwere got beat on the first bounce, but if you fight to get back into plays, you’re going to make game-changing plays in crunch time just like that one.

It’d be wrong not to include this one from UCLA’s opener. I’m all for sending shots into the stands if the exit velocity is that high. (Miller somehow was only credited with two blocks in that game.)

5. UCLA early season player to watch: Lindsey Corsaro

Don’t forget about the redshirt freshmen! Corsaro is one of several big guards seeing their first major college action this season. The common thread among that group: Long strides to get to the rim with just one dribble and a bigger frame to help them absorb contact once they get there. Corsaro has been the most impressive due to how willing she has been to finish with her off hand.

Most floaters of this variety are too ambitious and get bricked off the backboard. That’s a tough shot! Corsaro made it look easy.

6. The other impact redshirt frosh in LA

After canning five of six 3-point attempts against Santa Clara, Shalexxus Aaron is up to 10-of-15 from deep on the season. Just stick a pin in that. I noted last week that transfer Mariya Moore’s shooting will be a difference maker for the Trojans this season. This team will get really interesting if Aaron is able to spread the floor for speedsters Minyon Moore and Aliyah Mazyck as well.

7. Aari McDonald: Pac-12 leading scorer?

What a start to the season for McDonald. The 39-point performance in Arizona’s second game was buoyed by a whopping 23 free throw attempts. Five days later against Portland she went for 32 points on 16 shots. Also included in that line: seven assists against just three turnovers and two nasty step back 3-pointers.

It’s a stretch to say there were no easy wins in the Pac-12 last season. The conference was great at the top and even at the middle. The teams at the bottom need to start winning some games for that praise to be anything more than lip service. That time may come once the calendar turns. Arizona and Washington are led by two of the best guards in the conference in McDonald and Amber Melgoza, and Colorado and Utah have added some intriguing pieces up front.

8. Point Bobi

Borislava Hristova is a tremendously skilled basketball player. There just aren’t many players that make it look that easy at that size. Bobi Buckets has looked even more fluid off the bounce this season. Per Synergy Sports, she used 94 possessions as a pick and roll ball handler last season — her most common play type in the half court. WSU scored just 61 points (0.649 points per possession) on those possessions. Being able to get all the way to the rim more often is the easiest way for Hristova to bump that number up. Hitting shots like these won’t hurt, either:

9. Green light for Aleah Goodman

This is a scheduled weekly reminder of Oregon State’s embarrassment of riches. You’ll struggle to find other backup point guards that are willing to take shots like that, let alone make them at a high enough clip to warrant the attempts. More here on Goodman’s growing confidence via Steve Gress.

10. Sun Devils running with the Razorbacks

The broadcast crew played a clip of Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors talking about ASU’s grind it out style of play. It’s a tough match up for his team, which wants to get shots up early in the clock and force opponents into playing a faster pace.

What if this year’s ASU team is ready to find its blend to do both? Last year’s team had an offensive rating of 103.5 — good for 37th in the country! They played at one of the absolute slowest paces in the country, though, averaging 65.5 possessions per 40 minutes according to Her Hoop Stats.

There’s far too much good to ASU’s style of play to suggest completely shaking it up. They were a top-10 defensive rebounding team, top-25 in both foul and turnover rate and were a high assist team. Whether it’s through increased pace or simply by putting more shooting on the floor, it shouldn’t be tough for Kianna Ibis to get up north of 15 shots in a given game. Against high-powered offenses like Oregon, Oregon State and others, they’ll need to find ways to play more through their best player to build upon last year’s success.

11. ASU’s got shooters, plural

Michelle Smith highlighted one ASU freshman, Taya Hanson, in her latest column. They also have Jaime Loera. In 76 minutes combined through ASU’s first three games, those two got up 22 3-pointers.

Courtney Ekmark was the lone outside threat that teams absolutely had to lock in on last season. Opposing defenses don’t have to sacrifice much to crowd Kianna Ibis on the low block. Charli Turner Thorne has been going deep into her bench early on, even turning to full line changes early in quarters. As conference play approaches, keep an eye out to see if any of their freshman play their way into some closing lineups.

12. Dime of the week: Iris Mbulito

This kid can play. If you watched the entire ASU-Arkansas game, you’d probably agree in wishing that this Sun Devils squad had a few more games under their belt before taking on Baylor. It would have been interesting to see what happened when Mbulito ran into Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox at the basket.

Previous editions of the column: Week 1