Sunday, June 16

Women’s basketball team ends season with loss to Nebraska in second round of NCAA Tournament

Minneapolis, MN — After the first two minutes of the game, it looked as if the Bruins came to play.

And at 15:08 of the first half, it looked as if the Bruins did more than come to play “¦ they came to win.

Oh, how quickly the tide can shift “¦

The UCLA women’s basketball team saw its dream season come to an end Tuesday night, losing 83-70 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to the Kansas City regional’s No. 1 seed, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

UCLA, who finishes the season with a record of25-9, came into the Tuesday’s game as the No. 8 seed in the Kansas City regional, and in the opening minutes, the Bruins looked poised to give the heavily-favored Huskers (32-1) all they could handle. UCLA jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes and led Nebraska by nine five minutes into the half.

Although it was early, the Bruin press seemed to be flustering the Huskers, who had five turnovers and were 2-for-10 from the field with 11:43 to go in the first half. But thanks to a few key three-pointers, Nebraska clawed their way back, taking a 24-23 lead with a little under five minutes to go in the half.

“It wasn’t anything we did; it was the 3s they were hitting,” UCLA sophomore forward Jasmine Dixon said about the Huskers early comeback. “Every shot they put up went in, and we were trying to play keep up.”

The Huskers then used an 11-2 run to take a ten-point lead with a minute left in the half, before the Bruins scored the final five points of the half and headed into the locker room trailing 35-30.

One aspect that was critical in the Bruins first half letdown was the foul situation. Freshman forward Markel Walker and Dixon were both forced to sit out a majority of the first half after they both garnered two fouls apiece. Once the Bruins two central offensive weapons sat down, it was downhill for the UCLA offense.

“When Markel (Walker) and Jasmine (Dixon) got into foul trouble, that affected us a little bit,” Bruins senior guard Erica Tukiainen said after the game. “It shouldn’t have, but it did. As players, we didn’t make the adjustments that we needed to play better. We were successful when we were attacking the basket. We basically started settling for jumpshots. We weren’t in the flow of our offense.”

When asked if she contemplated leaving Walker and Dixon in the game despite their foul trouble, UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell knew that her squad could barely afford for both to be on the bench but could less afford for either to pick up their third foul.

“It’s a call that you make,” Caldwell said in the postgame press conference. “We’re a team that can’t afford for Jasmine (Dixon) or Markel (Walker) to be in foul trouble. When that happens, you go to your bench and make the decision to play without them. We couldn’t overcome that. That’s a tough option for us when those two are off the floor.”

But despite Walker and Dixon’s foul trouble, UCLA deficit at halftime was more than manageable.

But if there has been one thing that Caldwell has been preaching all year, it has been playing for 40 minutes, a feat that UCLA came significantly short of against the Huskers.

Nebraska started the second half with a 16-4 run, holding the Bruins scoreless for over five minutes. And during that stretch, the Huskers knocked down three jumpers from long distance, and ended the game shooting 8-for-15 from behind the arc.

“You either take away the 3-ball or you take away the inside play,” Caldwell said. “We did neither. Where we broke down was in our rotation a little bit.”

Leading the way for the Bruins were junior guards Darxia Morris and Doreena Campbell, each pouring in 15 points for UCLA, with Campbell adding six assists. Walker led the Bruins in rebounding, pulling down nine to go along with 11 points. Dixon finished with 13 points and five boards.

Morris, Campbell, Walker and Dixon will all be returning next season.

For Nebraska, it was junior guard Dominique Kelley who led the way, scoring a game-high 22 points. Senior forward Kelsey Griffin had 18 points to go along with 14 rebounds.

Despite the loss, the Bruin players are optimistic about the future ahead under Caldwell, who led UCLA to the NCAA tournament in only her second season.

“I’m super excited, especially for it to be Caldwell’s second year,” Dixon said. “We’ve come this far in her second year and I don’t see us declining.”

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