UCLA coach Cori Close reacts on the sideline during the...

UCLA coach Cori Close reacts on the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. Credit: AP/Michael Woods

UCLA coach Cori Close has been impressed with how teams have challenged themselves so far this season with many of the top schools playing each other.

This weekend will be no exception with six ranked teams descending on Connecticut for the Hall of Fame Showcase on Sunday. Second-ranked UCLA will face No. 20 Florida State in the opener. Top-ranked South Carolina meets No. 11 Utah in the second game and No. 17 UConn plays 24th-ranked North Carolina in the finale.

“There are so many great matchups early on. For me it’s so good for the game,” Close said Monday night. “It continues to build the momentum and put eyeballs on the game.”

Close's Bruins were in the Cayman Islands over Thanksgiving, which also had a slew of talented teams that included UConn, LSU and Virginia Tech.

“The biggest thing from Cayman and here is TV exposure,” Close said. “Getting more eyeballs on these matchups. There’s intrigue at every level. There's different styles of play, and I encourage people to tune in and support these great matchups.”

UCLA handed UConn its first loss of the season right after the Huskies lost guard Azzi Fudd for the season with a torn ACL. It was the first time that the Bruins had beaten the Huskies. Close knows that coach Geno Auriemma will have his team ready come February and March.

“They are a work in progress,” she said. “UConn is a great team that set the bar for the rest of us.”

UCLA guard Kiki Rice (1) shoots a three point shot...

UCLA guard Kiki Rice (1) shoots a three point shot against Arkansas during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. Credit: AP/Michael Woods

UConn isn't the only team that is dealing with injuries. Utah lost guard Gianna Kneepkens for the season with a right foot injury suffered against BYU.

“Our entire program is devastated for Gianna,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said in a statement. “No one works harder and competes to win like she does. I know she will attack this like she does everything else and come back better than ever. While this is adversity for our program, I believe in our players and know that we’ll persevere and our goals are still achievable.”

ANGEL'S BACK

Angel Reese returned to LSU last week after a four-game absence. The Tigers have only one game this week against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday. Reese scored 19 points as the Tigers beat Virginia Tech 82-64.

UCLA center Lauren Betts tries to shoot over Arkansas forward...

UCLA center Lauren Betts tries to shoot over Arkansas forward Maryam Dauda (30) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Fayetteville, Ark. Credit: AP/Michael Woods

___ Get alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME