Around the Pac-12: Stanford falls, Onyenwere leads UCLA over Indiana

BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES - 2019/12/22: Indiana Hoosiers, Grace Berger (34) knocks the ball away from UCLA Bruins Michaela Onyenwere (21) during the NCAA women's college basketball game against UCLA at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. (Photo by Bobby Goddin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES - 2019/12/22: Indiana Hoosiers, Grace Berger (34) knocks the ball away from UCLA Bruins Michaela Onyenwere (21) during the NCAA women's college basketball game against UCLA at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. (Photo by Bobby Goddin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Down goes No. 1; Onyenwere leads UCLA over Indiana

Pac-12 women’s basketball league play officially begins with four regional matchups on Sunday. All teams are off for the holidays until Saturday. Here’s a look back at two ranked meetings from over the weekend.

Stanford falls in Austin

The final outcome just as easily could have been defined by two falls during the game, both involving Texas star forward Joyner Holmes.

First, Holmes exited the game early in the fourth quarter after a hard fall attacking the basket from the corner as Nadia Fingall slid over hoping to draw a charge. Holmes returned to the bench and checked back in moments later.

Holmes then tripped and fell with 4.8 seconds remaining switching onto Hannah Jump as Stanford tried to inbound the ball. Jump had to adjust her path toward the inbounder and was clearly thrown off seeing a body hit the deck.

Jump was the clear first option and didn’t appear to realize how open she was. Holmes got back up in time to steal an errant inbound by Alyssa Jerome and took it the other way for a layup to seal the victory. A 3-pointer would have tied the game.

The Cardinal got tested in their lone true non-conference road game. Maya Dodson (foot) has yet to make her 2019-20 debut, and DiJonai Carrington (knee) missed a sixth consecutive game.

Stanford faced a steep climb after Kiana Williams and Lexie Hull shot a combined 2-for-12 in the first half. The latter getting to the free throw line, coupled with Williams coming alive in the fourth, looked like it may have been their saving grace. Fingall continued to make it look easy scoring from the low block and shot 2-of-4 from deep, including a jab step triple all over Holmes.

Lacie Hull and Ashten Prechtel played most of the second half ahead of Fran Belibi and Haley Jones. Jerome was a DNP-CD in the second half, save for the fateful inbound, after drawing her 10th start of the season. Jump sat most of the final 20 minutes leading up to those final possessions.

With Carrington sidelined and a cold first half from Williams, Stanford was hurting for more juice off the dribble. Williams missed two bunnies and aside from those looks, Texas was locked in to limit her driving lanes. Failing to lean more on Fingall, Prechtel and Belibi quarterbacking from the elbows would be a reasonable nitpick.

Jones drilled a pull-up jumper late in the first and wasn’t heard from after that point. She got stripped on the first possession of the third and was yanked moments later after getting beat twice by Jada Underwood on the offensive glass.

Underwood played one of the best games you’ll see all season from a starter posting an 0-fer shooting line. The senior wing finished with four steals and seven offensive rebounds.

Stanford made an effort to try to post Underwood up deep in the middle of the lane, especially as Holmes’ status to return was up in the air. Prechtel set Williams up for a 3-pointer with a heady diagonal pass, but Underwood (6’0”) won the war breaking up two post entries and blocking a Prechtel (6’5”) shot attempt to unlock a runout.

Texas finished plus-five on the offensive glass. On a related note, The Longhorns had a five-chance possession in the first half.

More foreshadowing: Jerome’s two turnovers were the only tallies keeping her from an eight trillion. The first was a mirror image of the second—an errant pass intended for a cutting Jones coming toward the ball from the opposite wing.

Charli Collier (20 points, 19 rebounds) joined Underwood with six offensive boards and made sure the Cardinal weren’t the only team getting some shooting from its frontcourt, hitting two key triples in the second half.

More scoring from Lexie Hull and Williams in the second half wasn’t enough. Sug Sutton was a steady hand for Texas. The senior guard rattled off four straight out of pick and roll. Collier converted a three-point play moments later on a putback after a Sutton drive drew help across the lane.

More on crunch time: Lexie Hull fouled Underwood with 1:41 to play out on the perimeter with Texas in the bonus. Underwood missed both free throws.

Great! It worked!

Not so fast.

Collier beat Fingall to tip the miss to Holmes, who got fouled on the putback attempt and made both free throws to put Texas up by five.

Stanford played out the next two possessions and got the stops they needed. But they burned about 12 seconds after the second stop getting into their action with Williams, Jump and Belibi.

Belibi ended up getting a layup. As we know in hindsight, Stanford still got a good chance to send the game to overtime. But they were sitting on two timeouts at the time, and those precious seconds cost them their chance at extending the game.

Each Texas starter played great. The offensive rebounding was a theme throughout the afternoon. And yet, this was a one-possession game late in the fourth. The final offensive rebound, the 12-second runoff and inbounds turnover will sting.

A few stray thoughts on Stanford’s rotation…

  • Fingall and Belibi are the two best all-around bigs right now. The fit offensively isn’t ideal. Fingall continuing to shoot like this would be wonderful. But spacing would limit her chances to destroy from the low block. Belibi hasn’t been treated as a threat away from the basket to date. They need Prechtel’s shooting.
  • Texas’ style won the day beyond the offensive rebounding tally. Stanford had to stay big to match them. In short: No Jones at the 4 to unlock more potent offensive combinations. Not the greatest time to make that point, though, as the freshman didn’t exactly earn crunch time minutes in this one.
  • Get well soon, Carrington & Dodson.

UCLA improves to 11-0

I’ll speak for Indiana this once. They’d love a chance to run back this kind of high-profile non-conference home game.

The Hoosiers experienced a dreadful start on Sunday. After Grace Berger scored on their first possession, Indiana shot 1-of-19 from the field, shot 0-for-2 at the line and turned it over six times as UCLA went on an 18-2 run.

The theory of this UCLA roster bore out against a top-15 opponent.

If they stay big, Lauryn Miller looms as a huge offensive rebounding (collected eight of ‘em on Sunday in 24 minutes) and shot-blocking presence.

It’s scary season when they downsize.

Indiana was completely powerless against Michaela Onyenwere (25 points, 11-20 FG). We’ll get to that. ‘Small’ UCLA lineups will feature three bigger guards next to Onyenwere and Japreece Dean that unlock more of a switch-everything defense.

That switching bogged the Hoosiers down. They didn’t get enough from Berger.

Freshman reserve big Mackenzie Holmes might be their best weapon against switching. Indiana didn’t force-feed her enough. Holmes was their only player in double figures with a team-high 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

Japreece Dean essentially put this game on ice with a nasty hesitation and finish with 3:02 remaining. Her defense doesn’t draw any headlines, but Dean was in Ali Patberg’s jersey all afternoon.

Indiana’s floor general was visibly frustrated by Dean’s ball pressure and couldn’t blow by her one-on-one. Patberg did make some inroads getting into the post but finished with nine points on 3-of-11 shooting.

Holmes scoring on Miller in the post ignited a key stretch in the third. Miller immediately raced down the floor looking to get Holmes right back but missed. Miller committed a frustration foul then picked up another 20 seconds later chasing an offensive rebound.

The Hoosiers, in the bonus by that point, were gifted two trips to the line as Miller exited with four fouls. Adding insult to injury, Cori Close had a sub waiting for Miller at the table after the third foul but couldn’t get her out in time.

Credit Close for going right back to Miller early in the fourth. The junior forward managed to play most of the fourth quarter without picking up a fifth.

Indiana managed to stick around for most of the second half. A literal lucky bounce could have swung the game. Miller’s attempted skip pass was deflected but found Onyenwere, who drilled a catch-and-shoot jumper to put the Bruins back up by five—just like Close drew it up.

A Bendu Yeaney putback brought Indiana back within three moments later. As the Hoosiers looked to dig down onto Onyenwere in the post, freshman guard Charisma Osborne made them pay with a 3-pointer on the kick out. After a stop and the aforementioned Dean layup, UCLA’s lead was up to eight.

Onyenwere powered UCLA to a much-needed resume-building win. The junior forward wasn’t dragged down as both teams shot below 35 percent from the field.

Onyenwere is a money midrange shooter. Bothering that shot is nearly impossible because she gets so much rise.

The final possession of the third quarter illustrated this beautifully.

At least one Bruin didn’t execute the play call or know where they were supposed to go. No matter. Onyenwere flashed to the top of the key, dribbled left, turned and rose up for the jumper.

Growing 10 inches is the only thing Brenna Wise could have better done to bother that shot.

Again, Indiana was powerless.

Remember, UCLA downsizing forces opposing bigs into unfavorable matchups to either track Onyenwere or stick with a guard out at the 3-point line.

The Hoosiers have plenty of offensive talent, but UCLA reminded them how tough it will get against the best teams deep in the NCAA Tournament.

Close’s line of, “I have Michaela Onyenwere and they don’t” rings true. Onyenwere is one of the best shot-makers in college basketball. (And Dean isn’t far behind.)

Casting stones at UCLA for a soft non-conference schedule doesn’t hold as much weight now that they have this win under their belt. They made it all the way through unblemished.

The Bruins open Pac-12 play with six of eight in Los Angeles. That first showdown with Arizona (January 5, 3:00 ET) will be critical in the race for a top-four finish.

  • In case you missed it, here’s the previous edition of ‘Around the Pac-12’ on recent wins for Stanford and Washington, plus some notes on the breaks of the 2019-20 Pac-12 schedule:

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