Despite injuries to key rotation players and inefficient shooting from their leading scorer, the Bruins left the Evergreen State with a silver lining — the blossoming of freshman guard Charisma Osborne.
No. 9 UCLA women’s basketball (23-4, 12-4 Pac-12) split its road stretch against Washington State (11-17, 4-12) and Washington (13-14, 5-11) to move a game and a half behind Stanford in the Pac-12 standings with just two games remaining in its regular season slate.
The Bruins were without redshirt junior guard Natalie Chou for both games, and junior guard Chantel Horvat saw just nine minutes against Washington State – also hampered by an injury.
“(We missed Chou’s) length, her ball pressure, her ability to shoot and play defensively stand out,” said junior forward Lauryn Miller. “We’ll definitely be glad to have her back.”
Junior forward Michaela Onyenwere – who ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring with 19.1 points per game – was limited to 20 combined points on 4-of-24 shooting over the weekend, in part due to the box-and-one defensive scheme used by Washington.
Osborne took the opportunity to fill the scoring void left by Onyenwere and by Chou’s 7.4 points per game.
Osborne scored a career-high 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting against Washington State, eclipsing her previous high of 22 points she set in the preceding game against then-No. 15 Oregon State. The Moreno Valley, California, native followed that up with 23 points and 10 rebounds Sunday.
Osborne’s 15.1 points per game in conference play place her 12th in the Pac-12 and second among freshmen.
The freshman’s 2.1 3-pointers made per game in Pac-12 play ranks fourth in the conference, and her 32.7% conversion rate from beyond the arc makes her the only Bruin to shoot above 30% from 3 this season. UCLA’s 28.3% 3-point percentage brings up the rear among Pac-12 teams.
With UCLA’s top three returning 3-point shooters – Onyenwere, redshirt senior guard Japreece Dean and redshirt sophomore guard Lindsey Corsaro – seeing a decline in 3-point efficiency, Osborne’s ability to cash in from deep has made up for some of the Bruins’ drop-off from long range.
“Obviously, (Osborne) was player of the game,” said coach Cori Close after the Washington State match. “Without her, we would have been in a whole heap of trouble. She could sense that she needed to do more for us and answered the bell.”
On Friday, Osborne narrowly missed the benchmark Close set for the freshman earlier in the season of hauling in a rebound every three minutes after reeling in 11 boards in 34 minutes against Washington State. But against Washington, she pulled in 10 rebounds in 30 minutes of play time, reaching the ratio set by Close.
The 5-foot-9 guard ranks 11th in the conference in rebounding in Pac-12 play and fourth among freshmen.
“We do a lot of rebounding drills, and I try really hard,” Osborne said. “(Close) and all the other coaches are always on me to crash (the glass) as hard as I can.”
Osborne is the only player in the conference to average over 6.5 rebounds per game and make two or more 3s per game in Pac-12 play, mitigating UCLA’s biggest weaknesses – 3-point shooting and rebounding for a team in which no player in the usual rotation stands over 6-foot-1.