Halftime: AU trails by 13 against UCLA in NCAA Tournament
Lewis, Koskimies helping AU close the massive gap
AU knew they would need strong defense from the start. The Eagles were energized prior to the beginning of the opening round NCAA Tournament game against UCLA.
Yet, the Eagles trailed by 13 points at halftime against the Bruins. Junior forward Cecily Carl opened the game by blocking junior forward Lajahna Drummer’s attempted layup. But, Carl’s block was the only ounce of strong defense AU offered in the first quarter. After the Eagles took a 9-5 lead at the midway point in the first quarter, UCLA used a 22-3 run to end the quarter and opened up a 15-point lead.
By the time the second quarter came around, junior guard Kaitlyn Lewis – who rode the bench for the game’s first quarter – knew how to handle UCLA’s height. In her eight minutes of play, Lewis contributed one rebound, one assist and one steal.
Junior guard Elina Koskimies is leading the team with 7 points. She was called for a foul on senior forward Monique Billings, though head coach Megan Gebbia and the rest of her team disagreed. Billings promptly completed two free throws, much to AU’s disappointment.
Billings leads UCLA with 12 points and 5 rebounds. She has completed all 4 of her attempted free throws.
The Bruins’ full-court pressure defense sped up the Eagles’ offense, forcing AU into 8 first half turnovers. UCLA stole the ball 6 times. The most extreme example came from junior guard Japreece Dean, who stole from senior guard Emily Kinneston just a few minutes into the first quarter. Dean and senior guard Jordin Canada swarmed Kinneston, who got flustered and couldn’t find a teammate to catch any pass. Billings got a jump shot from that steal, kicking off a constant bout of shots from the 6-4 senior.
Canada, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, frustrated Kinneston in the opening two quarters. Kinneston, who averages 15.8 points per game, was limited to 2 points on 1-5 shooting.