After blowing a 13-point lead, UCLA fought back to beat Utah 54-43 in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament, overcoming a sluggish offensive performance.
It was a slow start for both teams, with just two points scored in the game’s first five minutes. The Bruins got out to an early 16-10 lead, led by redshirt junior forward Atonye Nyingifa.
But while the offense struggled in the first half, UCLA’s defense shined as it forced 12 Utah turnovers, while UCLA committed just seven.
Already playing without starting point guard junior Thea Lemberger, the Bruins got a scare when, with nine minutes left in the first half, redshirt senior forward Alyssia Brewer twisted her ankle on a post move. Brewer fell to her knees, dug her head into the court and pounded the floor in pain for several minutes before making her way to the locker room by her own power.
Without Brewer, UCLA found points in other ways and headed into halftime leading 29-20.
Brewer returned in the second half, but as she came back in the game, so did Utah, who went on a 15-2 run to tie the game and would later take the lead. UCLA’s strong turnover differential in the first half disappeared during this run, as Utah was fueled by five quick UCLA turnovers.
The Bruins regained a one-point lead, then pushed it to three after an alley-oop layup from Nyingifa to senior Markel Walker. From there, UCLA didn’t look back, expanding its lead and fending off Utah’s late push.
The win moves UCLA on to the semifinals, where it will face Cal Saturday at 6 p.m.
Compiled by Kevin Bowman, Bruin Sports reporter.