As the two teams traded baskets with the game winding down, the atmosphere inside Pauley Pavilion rose to the intensity of the game, one team with a perfect record at stake, the other attempting to stifle one of the hottest teams in the country.
By the time the buzzer sounded, the No. 8 UCLA women’s basketball team (10-1) was unable to finish out non-conference play without being scarred in the loss column, with a missed jumper by senior guard Darxia Morris as time expired sealing a 55-53 loss to Louisiana State (10-4) on Tuesday.
But even if the spoils of a back-and-forth battle went to the victor, LSU coach Van Chancellor came away quite impressed by his opposition.
“(UCLA) really pressed us as well as anybody we’ve played since I’ve been back in the college game,” said Chancellor, who is in his fourth year at the helm after coaching the Houston Comets of the WNBA for 10 seasons.
UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell, though, thought there was more to be desired from her team’s defense.
“I think with this team, we pick and choose when we want to bring our intensity,” Caldwell said. “There are times when our full-court pressure looks good and is disruptive, because all five people are in sync. But there were many possessions in the second half when we didn’t have all five people in sync.”
LSU seized momentum from the outset, scoring seven unanswered points from the opening tip before sophomore forward Markel Walker nailed a jumper from the free-throw line to give the Bruins their first basket of the game.
It wasn’t long, however, until UCLA used its defense to claw back into the game, forcing LSU into 13 turnovers en route to taking a 25-21 lead into halftime.
In turn, the Lady Tigers began the second period with their composure regained, thanks in large part to the play of junior forward Taylor Turnbow, who scored 12 of her 18 points in the second half.
Despite Turnbow’s efforts and 16 trips to the free-throw line in the final 20 minutes, the Lady Tigers found themselves locked into a battle in the waning minutes.
Bruin senior forward Christina Nzekwe hit a jumper to knot the game at 53-53 with 39 seconds left in the game before Turnbow converted on a shot of her own with 15 seconds remaining.
But a missed jumper, an offensive rebound and two timeouts later, UCLA had yet another chance to keep its winning streak alive with just 2.3 seconds left.
In the end, Morris ““ who kept her team in the game with 16 points on the night ““ couldn’t convert, an off-balanced, 15-footer clanking off the iron.
“I was off-balance, I was fading back, but anything is possible,” Morris said. “It just didn’t go in for me.”
Campbell out in the first half
Senior guard Doreena Campbell did not play at all in the first half because of violation of team rules, according to Caldwell. She played 18 minutes in the second half and had eight points to go along with four rebounds and two assists.