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Sophomore Rebekah Gardner leads UCLA basketball to victory over Washington State

Despite turnovers, women's team rallies to overcome Washington State

Sophomore Rebekah Gardner scored a career-high 19 points on Saturday.

Sophomore Rebekah Gardner scored a career-high 19 points on Saturday. Tiffany Cheng

There were times in the first half when Rebekah Gardner didn’t look like she would miss a shot.

The second half would prove otherwise, but for 20 minutes, the sophomore guard lit up the scoreboard for the UCLA women’s basketball team en route to a sloppy, turnover-filled 93-58 win over Washington State.

In a contest that pitted the conference’s second-best team against the second-worst, UCLA (18-7, 11-3) managed to work its way through an astonishing 36 giveaways. The Cougars (7-19, 2-13) didn’t fare much better with holding possession, coughing up 38 turnovers of their own. Despite the stop-and-start nature of the game, UCLA’s offense ended up clicking, easing the Bruins to victory.

“We shot the ball extremely well,” coach Nikki Caldwell said. “Washington State gave us different looks, but I was proud of our team. When we got a chance to go down to the other end and score, we did so.”

It was a physical game from the start, as the officials allowed both teams to mix it up in the early going. Bodies hit the floor, elbows flew, and players collided. In the midst of it all, UCLA managed to slowly but surely pull away from the overmatched opposition.

After the Cougars opened with five straight buckets, the Bruin defense clamped down, and the team worked its way back into the game on the back of a hot-shooting Gardner.

“I take advantage of the opportunities I get,” Gardner said. “Even though we were turning the ball over at times, we were playing good defense. We just had to focus on getting our offense working.”

But the offense continued to be hampered by slippery fingers.

Caldwell was frustrated by her team’s inability to secure the basketball, something that could catch up to them against tougher opposition.

“I am upset, but it’s something that’s correctable,” Caldwell said, admitting that she’d never seen that many turnovers in one game. “I hope we’ve gotten all of the turnovers out of our system for next week. We’re going to look and see where we are turning the ball over and why.”

For the sweet-shooting Gardner, Saturday was a day to remember.

After opening the season primarily as a bench player, the sophomore out of Upland has worked her way to a more prominent role in the rotation, even contributing as a starter at times during Pac-10 play. Gardner poured in a career-high 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field.

“I know that I was off in the past couple games, but this game, my shots just started going in,” Gardner said.

The Bruins wore special pink uniforms for their annual Pink Zone game, designed to promote breast cancer awareness and raise money to fight against the disease. Senior Moniquee Alexander, who lost her mother to breast cancer, put in one of her best performances of the season, contributing 11 points.

“Every year, this game is getting easier to play in,” Alexander said. “I feel like this game has helped me grow as a person. Every time, I come out and try to play the best I can for it.”

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