At halftime of the UCLA women’s basketball game against Colorado, the score was 24-23 in the Buffaloes’ favor.
The point differential had decreased to zero by the end of regulation play, with senior guard Rebekah Gardner scoring the game-tying basket 14 seconds before time ran out.
In a game with six lead changes and neither team leading by more than eight, UCLA (10-10, 5-4 Pac-12) and Colorado (15-5, 4-5) matched each other stride for stride through two halves of play Sunday afternoon.
But at the end of 40 grueling minutes, it was the Bruins who were a little less tired. UCLA surged ahead in overtime to defeat Colorado 62-54.
“We were just trying to string two wins together,” Gardner said.
“I just happened to have the ball when time was running down in regulation. Even in overtime, we had this mindset that we were not going to lose.”
Playing at a higher altitude than they are used to, the team admitted that fatigue started to play a larger role as Sunday’s game wore on.
But thanks to some strategic timeouts, UCLA was able to catch its breath long enough to pull out the win.
“All we kept saying was, “˜You are not tired.’ Mariah Williams is from Colorado and she just kept motivating us, telling us that we weren’t tired and to keep pushing,” junior guard/forward Markel Walker said.
Walker led the way for the Bruins throughout the game, tying a career-high 24 points with 10 rebounds.
She started UCLA on an 8-0 run in overtime with a layup, totaling six of the Bruins’ 16 points in extra minutes.
“She’s a nightmare for anyone to guard,” said coach Cori Close on Walker.
“In reality, she can hit the perimeter jumper. When she’s hitting those, she’s very hard to match up with. She’s so strong on the interior and she’s the best rebounder I’ve ever coached. I’m really proud of how she came out to play today. For her to rally this team, it really means a lot.”
The Bruins were tenacious on defense throughout the game and their hustle was well rewarded. UCLA forced Colorado to commit 25 turnovers, stealing the ball 12 times.
“We just really wanted to focus on our defense,” Walker said.
“In every huddle we had on the court, we just talked about rebounding and defense. That was our main point throughout the game.”
The win against Colorado, along with Thursday’s victory over Utah, gave UCLA wins in consecutive games against conference opponents for the first time this season.