Passion plays fuel UCLA women’s basketball March Madness surge

Earlier than the chaos of March descended on Pauley Pavilion this week, Cori Shut gathered her workforce at middle courtroom on the finish of apply. Throughout this time of the 12 months, groups that bear in mind and embrace their identification discover essentially the most success, the UCLA head coach reminded her gamers. That basis helps overcome inevitable NCAA match adversity.

The Bruins, she reassured them, know their identification.

“Protection, rebounding,” Shut mentioned, “and fervour performs.”

The third class is the key to UCLA’s success. Fueled by an alternate stat sheet of sometimes intangible actions, the No. 4 seed Bruins return to the NCAA match after a one-year absence to host No. 13 seed Sacramento State on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. within the first spherical of the Greenville 1 area at Pauley Pavilion. The sport is on ESPN2 with the winner advancing to play No. 5 Oklahoma or No. 12 Portland on Monday.

UCLA tracks seven ardour play classes that don’t present up in conventional field scores. The checklist has grown since Shut first applied the technique when she was employed at UCLA in 2011, and the Bruins now depend display assists, help field outs, costs, deflections, out-of-area rebounds, baskets scored with no motion required as soon as the move is acquired and 50-50 balls.

Grad assistant Jaelynn Penn, who performed for the Bruins final season, tallies every ardour play throughout the sport utilizing a pen, sheet of paper and clipboard on the bench. The workforce’s purpose is 75 every sport. UCLA’s finest performances this season are 79 in opposition to Oregon State and 78 in opposition to Oregon. The Bruins gained each video games at Pauley Pavilion.

“Making an attempt to honor all [things] coaches know that result in successful performs that don’t present up in stat sheets,” Shut mentioned.

Senior Charisma Osborne leads the Bruins in scoring with 15.5 factors. Ahead Emily Bessoir, UCLA’s high rebounder at 5.8 boards per sport, broke out within the Pac-12 match for 4 consecutive double-digit scoring efforts and was named to the all-tournament workforce with Osborne and freshman Kiki Rice.

However with regards to ardour performs, Camryn Brown and Lina Sontag are the celebs.

Brown, a senior, averages three factors per sport. Her profession excessive in scoring is 9. She has additionally been named the workforce’s ardour participant of the sport 9 instances this season, tied with Sontag for the workforce lead.

Sontag, a 6-foot-3 ahead, appears like “the fervour participant of the century,” Osborne mentioned.

UCLA ahead Lina Sontag, left, tries to dam a shot by Arizona guard Shaina Pellington throughout a Wildcats win on Feb. 3.

(Mark J. Terrill / Related Press)

“In the event you see your stats and so they’re not good, generally it may be slightly irritating, however to see your ardour performs, that actually perks me up.”

— Lina Sontag, UCLA ahead

“Her skill to hint the ball and get deflections, particularly at her measurement, is unimaginable,” Shut mentioned of the freshman from Germany. “The most effective I’ve ever seen.”

Sontag averages 5.1 factors and 4.2 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per sport. However it’s not unusual for her to notch between 15 and 18 ardour performs a sport to win the workforce award. She had one sport with 24 this season.

Coaches at all times informed Sontag, an everyday contributor on the German youth nationwide groups, that she excelled at deflecting the ball and making hustle performs, however she had by no means seen it quantified the best way UCLA does. The give attention to ardour performs at UCLA has introduced a unique degree to her sport.

“In the event you see your stats and so they’re not good, generally it may be slightly irritating,” Sontag mentioned, “however to see your ardour performs, that actually perks me up.”

Shut determined lengthy earlier than he bought her first head teaching job that monitoring and celebrating small performs can be an essential pillar of her program. The Bruins acknowledge the participant who will get essentially the most ardour performs every sport by displaying a spotlight reel of their performs throughout a gathering earlier than the following sport. By sharing reward past simply the main scorer or rebounder, teammates see the worth of impacting the sport in different methods.

“You have fun the type of teammate you wish to be,” Shut mentioned, noting how Osborne, who’s the workforce’s main scorer and a possible first-round WNBA draft decide, can also be the workforce’s finest screener. “Once you worth that and your finest gamers worth that, I actually do assume it breeds a selflessness and a teamwork worth that everyone knows results in wins in massive moments.”

Penn, who joined the Bruins as a grad switch from Indiana final season, tracks every ardour play on a chart throughout the sport. She reviews to Shut throughout each media timeout what number of the Bruins have and the coaches emphasize whether or not the workforce must sustain its present tempo or decide it up for the following section. When the workforce purpose is in sight, gamers generally urge Penn to be lenient on the extra goal classes like out-of-area rebounding or 50-50 balls. She responds with a side-eye look.

These numbers don’t lie.