W. Hoops: Guard Delivers Big off Bench
By Bryan Chu

For once it wasn’t Nikki Blue or Lisa Willis that sparked the Bruins.
It was seldom-used Shaina Zaidi.
In UCLA’s loss against USC, the sophomore guard was the most efficient player for the UCLA women’s basketball team.
In just eight minutes of play, Zaidi tallied 10 points, all in the first half. The sophomore connected on two of three attempts from beyond the arc and sank four of five free throws.
“I’ve been on in practice,” Zaidi said. “I’ve been pretty confident in my shot, so I knew once I was in there, I just needed to step up, and I can’t let the team go down because I’m in there.
“It felt just like practice when Nikki and Lisa pass me the ball.”
But despite a very productive first half, Zaidi found herself on the bench for all but 3.8 seconds of the second half, hoping her number would be called.
“I was definitely ready on the bench, cheering the team on,” Zaidi said. “The way the game was going, it was a fast-paced game, possession after possession, and I just stayed ready.”
Nevertheless, her 10-point performance, which was also a career-high for Zaidi, was the first time this season a Bruin reserve has scored in double digits.
Zaidi, who averaged only 1.8 points per game in 4.6 minutes of play this season, was ready for her opportunity after Bruin guards Lauren Pedersen and Ortal Oren got into early foul trouble in the contest.
With Oren picking up three fouls in just two minutes, and Pedersen collecting a pair of early fouls in the first half, having to call on Zaidi may have been a blessing in disguise for UCLA coach Kathy Olivier.
“She did a lot of good things,” Olivier said. “She stayed out wide and she took the open shot. Shaina is just going to get better and better and I think that next year she’ll see more playing time if she continues to improve.
“She got us some momentum, which was nice.”
But with the Bruins trailing for the majority of the game, Olivier felt that there was not an opportune time to put Zaidi back in after her scoring flurry.
“When I feel like I can use her, I’ll put her in,” Olivier said. “But in the second half I didn’t feel like there was an opportunity for her to get in there. I thought we were in a better flow in the second half and we were doing some good things.
“She’s going to get more and more opportunities, she just has to stay ready.”
Though her performance may have been a surprise to those not familiar with the Bruin sophomore, Zaidi’s teammates were not at all shocked to see her contribute. In fact, it was a relief that someone aside from the usual suspects stepped up.
“Sometimes it’s just unfortunate she’s a point guard playing behind me,” Blue said. “But the girl can shoot; she’s one of the best shooters on the team. I think Shaina has it in her to come out and score 10 points any night.
“It’s a big boost for us to see someone come off the bench and score.”
When UCLA faces Arizona State, a team that defeated the Bruins two times this season, in the Pac-10 Tournament in the opening round, Zaidi will maintain the same outlook she always has.
“My teammates know I’m ready,” Zaidi said. “Whatever to help the team, I’ll do.”
(Courtesy Daily Bruin. The article appeared a couple of weeks ago)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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