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Women’s basketball prepares for first Pac-12 tournament game against Arizona State

Sophomore forward Michaela Onyenwere – who was named to the all-conference team on Tuesday – will compete in her second Pac-12 Tournament with UCLA women’s basketball on Friday in Las Vegas. (Anirudh Keni/Daily Bruin)

By Vinny Lavalsiti

March 7, 2019 3:02 pm

Cori Close said the warmup for the big dance starts Friday.

“As much as we want to win the conference tournament, that’s not what we’re preparing for,” the coach said. “We’re preparing for the NCAA tournament.”

No. 25 UCLA women’s basketball (19-11, 12-6 Pac-12) earned the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the 2019 Pac-12 Tournament. No. 5 seed Arizona State (20-9, 11-7) defeated No. 12 seed Colorado (12-18, 2-16) 66-49 in the first round and will face UCLA on Friday morning.

“You better (match the Sun Devils’ intensity),” Close said. “I would say we’re two of the hottest teams in the conference.”

Arizona State upset then-No. 9 Oregon State 66-54 and trailed by as little as one point in the fourth quarter to the Pac-12 regular season champion No. 6Oregon in its final two games of the regular season.

In UCLA’s lone meeting against then-No. 16 Arizona State, senior guard Japreece Dean drilled a 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining to lift the Bruins over the Sun Devils 61-59 on Jan. 25. The Bruins went on to win nine of their next 11 games.

“That (Arizona State-Arizona) road trip, I thought was the turning point,” Close said. “To beat a really good ASU team … and then to go into triple overtime at Arizona. ‘Ok,’ they thought. ‘We can do this.’ And I think that was a major momentum shift.”

Arizona State forward and leading scorer Kianna Ibis logged 20 and 23 points against Oregon and Oregon State, respectively, but was held to 10 points against the Bruins.

“Last time we scouted (Ibis) really well,” said sophomore forward Michaela Onyenwere. “They were setting solid screens for her, a lot of cross screens for her in terms of getting her open.”

Onyenwere and a bevy of other Bruins received Pac-12 accolades this week.

“It’s an honor because we have such great (players) in this conference,” Onyenwere said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my teammates and my coaches because they instill so much confidence in me.”

Onyenwere, selected to the All-Pac-12 Team, averaged 21.1 points over her last eight games – good for third-best in the Pac-12 during that span.

Senior guard Kennedy Burke, selected to the All-Defensive team, leads Pac-12 guards with 25 blocks and is ranked fourth with 56 steals. Redshirt freshman guard Lindsey Corsaro is fifth among freshmen in scoring with 7.2 points per game.

UCLA could have a potential quarterfinal rematch against No. 1 seed Oregon. The Ducks are shooting a conference-best 51.3 percent from the field, averaging 87.3 points per game – just over 11 points ahead of the next best team.

“We know everyone in the Pac-12 are good teams despite records,” Dean said.

Three of the Pac-12’s top-10 scorers are aligned on the Bruins’ side of the bracket: Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon forward Satou Sabally and the Pac-12 leading scorer, with 24.9 points per game, guard Aari McDonald of Arizona.

“The offensive threats in the Pac-12 is just crazy,” Onyenwere said. “But it’s just going to be about who plays their hardest and who wants it more and who’s going to out-hustle the other team.”

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Vinny Lavalsiti | Alumnus
Lavalsiti joined the Bruin as a junior transfer in 2018 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He spent time on the softball, women's basketball, cross country and track & field beats.
Lavalsiti joined the Bruin as a junior transfer in 2018 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He spent time on the softball, women's basketball, cross country and track & field beats.
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