What is a passion play? UCLA reveals the secret behind its March Madness surge

Before the March chaos swept over Pauley Pavilion this week, Cori Close assembled her team on center court at the end of practice. During this season, teams that remember and embrace their identities thrive, UCLA recalled -Head coach her players. This foundation helps overcome inevitable adversity in NCAA tournaments.

The Bruins, she assured them, know her identity.

“Defense, rebounds,” Close said, “and passion plays.”

The third category is UCLA’s secret of success. Fueled by an alternate stat with typically intangible actions, the No. 4 Bruins return to the NCAA tournament after a year-long absence to face the No. 13 at Greenville in the first round on Saturday at 8:30 p.m received 1 region at the Pauley Pavilion. The game airs on ESPN2, and the winner advances against No. 5 Oklahoma or No. 12 Portland forward.

UCLA tracks seven passion game categories that don’t appear in traditional boxing scores. The list has grown since Close first implemented the strategy when she was hired at UCLA in 2011, and the Bruins are now counting screen assists, assist box outs, tackles, deflections, out-of-range rebounds and baskets made without a single one a movement was required pass is received and 50-50 balls.

Grad assistant Jaelynn Penn, who played for the Bruins last season, counts each Passion Play while playing with a pen, piece of paper and clipboard on the bench. The team’s goal is 75 per game. UCLA’s best performances this season are 79 vs. Oregon State and 78 vs. Oregon. The Bruins won both games at Pauley Pavilion.

“I try to honor everyone [things] Coaches know this leads to winning games that don’t show up in the stat sheets,” Close said.

Senior Charisma Osborne leads the Bruins with 15.5 points. Forward Emily Bessoir, UCLA’s top rebounder at 5.8 boards per game, broke out in the Pac-12 tournament for four straight double-digit scoring goals and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Osborne and freshman Kiki Rice.

But when it comes to passion plays, Camryn Brown and Lina Sontag are the stars.

Brown, a senior, averages three points per game. Her career high is nine. She has been named the most passionate player of the game nine times this season, alongside Sontag at the helm of the team.

Sontag, a 6-foot-3 forward, feels like “the passion player of the century,” Osborne said.

UCLA forward Lina Sontag (left) tries to block a shot by Arizona guard Shaina Pellington during a February 3 Wildcats victory.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“When you see your stats and they’re not good, it can be a little frustrating at times, but seeing your passion play really cheers me up.”

– Lina Sontag, UCLA forward

“Their ability to follow the ball and get deflections, especially at their size, is incredible,” Close said of the newcomer from Germany. “The best thing I’ve ever seen.”

Sontag averages 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game. But it’s not uncommon for her to play passion between 15 and 18 to win a game to win the team prize. She had one game this season at 24.

Coaches always told Sontag, who is a regular on Germany’s youth national teams, that she was excellent at deflecting the ball and playing frantically, but she had never seen it quantified like UCLA. UCLA’s passion play focus has taken her play to another level.

“When you see your stats and they’re not good, it can be a little frustrating at times,” Sontag said, “but seeing your passion really cheers me up.”

Close decided long before he landed her first head coaching job that pursuing and celebrating small plays would be a key pillar of her program. The Bruins recognize the player who plays the most passions in each game by showing a highlight reel of their games during a meeting before the next game. By not just praising the top scorer or rebounder, teammates recognize the value of influencing the game in other ways.

“You celebrate the kind of teammate you want to be,” Close said, noting that Osborne, the team’s top scorer and a potential WNBA first-round draft pick, is also the team’s top screener. “When you appreciate that and your best players appreciate that, I really believe it breeds a selflessness and teamwork value that we all know leads to wins in big moments.”

Penn, who joined the Bruins last season as a college graduate from Indiana, follows each passion game on a chart during the game. She reports to Close at each media timeout how many the Bruins have, and the coaches emphasize whether the team needs to maintain their current pace or increase it for the next segment. When the team goal is in sight, players sometimes urge Penn to be lenient on the more objective categories like out-of-range rebounds or 50-50 balls. She answers with a sideways glance.

These numbers don’t lie.

Source : www.latimes.com

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