LOS ANGELES (AP) – No. 18 UCLA pulled out a victory with its defense and rebounding – two things the Bruins needed when their offense was all over the place.
Markel Walker had 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in a 62-46 victory over No. 22 Colorado on Friday night for the Bruins’ third straight win.
“Markel Walker kicked up our defense, that’s what happened,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “It changed the productivity and energy of the game.”
Jasmine Dixon grabbed 10 rebounds in helping the Bruins (16-4, 7-2 Pac-12) control the boards 44-29 against the league’s second-best rebounding team. Walker bounced back after having just two points in 19 minutes in a win against Arizona State last weekend.
“Once you start pressing them and defending that opened up a lot of stuff for us,” Walker said.
Brittany Wilson scored 12 points and Chucky Jeffery had eight of her 11 points in the second half for the Buffaloes (15-5, 4-5), who lost their third in a row against a ranked opponent on the road. The Buffs were swept by California and Stanford last weekend, the two teams that have accounted for four of their five losses.
“We had our opportunities to crash the boards,” Wilson said. “They got the 50-50 balls and we didn’t. Too many tipped balls that we didn’t get. It was a tough battle.”
The Bruins committed a season-high 29 turnovers, including nine in the first seven minutes of the second half when they didn’t miss a shot or a free throw. UCLA was perfect from the floor until freshman Kari Korver missed a 3-pointer at 9:44. The Bruins shot 70 percent in the second half, and 56 percent for the game.
“We can score a lot of points when we don’t throw the ball to the other team,” Close said. “We’re a very good shooting team. That’s why it frustrates me so much when we’re not careful. We can’t allow ourselves to be that sub-par on the offensive end.”
Walker and Alyssia Brewer had seven turnovers each.
“That’s terrible,” Walker said about her miscues. “I don’t even have eight assists, I have one.”
Close said, “We are making so many repeated mistakes on the offensive end. We have to lock in and grow. We must learn from this.”
Despite the Bruins’ sloppiness, Colorado got no closer than 11 points in the second half. The Buffs had 11 steals but they couldn’t overcome 29 percent shooting. Walker and Dixon teamed to give UCLA a 36-22 edge in paint points and the Bruins’ bench outscored Colorado’s reserves, 16-9.
Brewer had 10 points and seven rebounds for UCLA despite sitting out much of the second half with a bruised rib after Jeffery inadvertently poked her.
Colorado raced to an 8-2 lead to open the game before UCLA switched to a smaller, faster lineup. The change and Walker’s energetic defense launched the Bruins on a 23-3 run that gave them a 25-11 lead.
“We let that affect us the entire game,” Colorado coach Linda Lappe said. “We weren’t as ready as we need to be. You got to be able to recover, especially on the road.”
Walker had 11 points and six rebounds in the half, and fed her teammates for baskets when she wasn’t scoring.
“She came out ready to play and she was aggressive,” Lappe said. “She got their team going. She’s the one that started that run of theirs.”
The Buffaloes made just one field goal over the final 14:21 of the half, when they trailed 29-15 at the break. They shot 6 of 20 from the floor, 1 of 8 from 3-point range and had 11 turnovers. Colorado’s 15 points tied the fewest allowed in a half by a UCLA opponent this season.
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