The Bruins’ bench cheered as the bench players trotted onto the court.
Redshirt senior guard Chrissy Baird and freshman forward Shayley Harris brought the bench to its feet after they both recorded a defensive rebound in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in No. 25 UCLA women’s basketball’s (18-11, 11-6 Pac-12) 76-60 defeat of Utah (20-8, 9-8) on Friday night.
Baird and Harris each played just 15 and 47 minutes on the season, respectively, prior to entering the game.
“It’s cool to see the smiles on (Harris and Baird’s) faces,” said senior guard Japreece Dean. “I know (Baird’s) family is here, so I know it’s cool for them too.”
Dean logged five of her career-high 10 assists in the first quarter to give the Bruins an early 18-8 lead.
Dean – who has recorded a 3.95 assist-to-turnover ratio over the past four games – said the assists were the result of UCLA’s 22 fast-break points.
“One of our emphasizes was to push in transition and attack and there was open lanes,” Dean said. “And when people clog in, then there’s open people.”
Utah forward Megan Huff’s 11 second-quarter points helped the Utes cut a 10-point Bruin lead to just two with less than a minute left in the second quarter.
“In the second quarter we got mixed up on our defensive rotations and defensive executions,” said sophomore forward Michaela Onyenwere.
Utah held UCLA to shooting just under 27 percent from the field in the quarter before UCLA entered halftime with a 30-27 advantage.
The Bruins recorded three consecutive offensive rebounds with around four minutes left in the third quarter, the last bouncing into the hands of Onyenwere for her 11th double-double of the season.
Onyenwere – who finished with 29 points and 13 boards – followed the rebound with an and-one foul to stretch the UCLA lead to 46-36.
The Bruins rebounded 46 percent of their offensive misses, converting 18 offensive rebounds into 19 second-chance points. Coach Cori Close said the extra shot opportunities enabled UCLA to attempt 20 more field goals than Utah and mentally wore down the Utes.
“We’re built on creating more possessions,” Close said. “We didn’t always score on them, but it sort of broke (Utah’s) will a little bit. And that’s what (Onyenwere) does.”
Twelve of UCLA’s 19 second-chance points came from five of Onyenwere’s career-high 13 rebounds.
The Bruins scored eight of their 50 points in the paint during a 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to extend the UCLA lead to 22.
Close said the Bruins talked at halftime about working the ball inside the paint to adjust to Utah’s zone.
“We were able to get the ball inside better in the second half,” Close said.
The Bruins will celebrate Senior Day with their final game at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday against Colorado (12-16, 2-15).
“It’s kind of sad,” Dean said. “(But) it’s been a great run.”