With just under three minutes remaining in the first half of Friday’s game, Washington freshman guard/forward Heather Corral stood at the free-throw line, her team trailing UCLA by three.
The Bruins, hoping to retain their lead going into halftime, got a break; Corral clanked both of her free throws. But the luck stopped there. Following the second miss, Washington came up with the rebound and tossed the ball back to Corral, who hit a 3-pointer to tie the game.
It was one step forward, two steps back for UCLA throughout the game. Or rather, two steps forward, three steps back, as Washington’s barrage of three pointers allowed it to keep pace with any ground UCLA gained with its consistent inside scoring.
Keyed by an 11-0 run midway through the second half, however, UCLA was able to sneak a few extra steps in and regain its lead, holding off Washington (17-6, 9-3 Pac-12) to secure a 65-61 win.
“It definitely is (frustrating). We had pretty good contesting and they’re still shooting right in your face,” said senior forward Alyssia Brewer.
“It kind of puts your pride down just a little bit, but the one thing about that is you can’t let that take you out of your game. You’ve got to keep doing what you got to do to be able to get the W, and I think that’s exactly what we did that game.”
But while Washington’s flurry of threes won over the Huskies’ hometown crowd, it was No. 17 UCLA’s work in the paint that won the game.
“Our postgame pretty much dominated that game and they gave us their best push but at the end of the day we prevailed,” said senior guard Mariah Williams.
Sunday’s game at Washington State (9-14, 5-7) looked as though it would offer just as much drama. The Cougars held the lead for much of the first half, bolstered by their strong shooting.
“I thought they did a really good job hitting some jumpers in the first half. Credit them. I didn’t think we were having a ton of defensive breakdowns, I just think they were making some tough shots,” said coach Cori Close.
In the second half however, it was the Bruins’ strong shooting that stole the show. UCLA (19-4, 10-2) shot 85 percent in the second half and finished the game shooting 63.8 percent, its highest percentage since 1999.
“(It felt) great,” Brewer said. “We were executing and being able to get the ball there. There were a lot of layups and our offense is kind of focused on that.”
With its offense operating at full efficiency, UCLA finally gained some separation and finished with an 80-65 win on the road.
“Every win is so important. More than anything else, every week in which you get better is more important,” Close said. “I’m glad that it played out in wins and we’re one win away from getting 20 and that’s overall really good from an NCAA tournament seeding standpoint.”
UCLA found itself in two tough games this weekend but managed to come out of both victorious.
“They gave us their best push but we walked out of there still standing,” Williams said.