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REGION: Mideast SEED: 10
COACH: Kathy Olivier CONFERENCE: Pac-12
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
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Maylana Martin. Remember her? Well, she was the last UCLA player to be considered for national freshman of the year -- until now. Quinn, a 6-foot freshman/guard, is UCLA's leading scorer and rebounder, and finished the regular season ranked fourth in the Pac-10 in steals (2.25 spg), fifth in scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg) and ninth in assists (3.00 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (1.14). Oh, and that one triple-double in the Pac-10 this season didn't belong to Stanford's Nicole Powell. Instead, Quinn went for 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 28-point win over Cal on Feb. 19. to record just the fourth triple-double in Bruin history, and the first since 1996. From Jan. 31-Feb. 19, in fact, Quinn put together a string of six straight games with at least 20 points, a UCLA freshman record -- and the first time it has happened for any UCLA player since 1992-93. Quinn, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, recorded seven double-doubles in the regular season, including six in the last nine games.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
Coach Kathy Olivier definitely had her team oiled in all the right places at the close of this year's Pac-10 season -- the Bruins are playing hot and hungry. They won seven of their last eight regular-season contests, including victories over Arizona, Arizona State and USC. When the season officially ended, they were grooved into a three-way tie for third place with both Arizona State and USC, and understood that a good showing in the conference tournament might just grant them a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
And so it has. The Bruins dismantled Arizona State in the quarterfinals, then lost a close scramble to Stanford in the semifinals. This, in addition to a Top 50 RPI, might have been what got this young, explosive team dancing.
Did we mention they were young? Freshman Noelle Quinn, a 6-foot guard/forward, leads the team with an athletic 16 points every game. She also controls the boards, pulling down almost eight for her squad.
Besides the frosh, much of the leadership comes from a sophomore guard Nikki Blue. Named to the Pac-10 all-conference club, Blue is likewise physically gifted with tremendous agility and ball control. Her all-around game is good for 15 points, six rebounds and a stand-tall five assists.
In short, the Bruins start one freshman and two sophomores who lead the team 1-2-3 in both scoring and rebounding. Despite this, Olivier has them playing with steam and confidence as the showdown quickly approaches. They lost a close match to Purdue in December, another shortly thereafter to a strong Michigan State club, but then defeated the tough Ohio State Buckeyes at the end of the month.
The Bruins' quick guard play leads the conference with just more 12 steals each game, placing them in the top 10 of women's hoops in this category.
If UCLA can carry its brilliant momentum from the Pac-10 season finale -- along with fewer turnovers than its typical 17 per game -- anything can happen.