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UCLA women’s basketball falls to Washington State in narrow loss

Redshirt senior guard Natalie Chou put up 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting in No. 5 UCLA women’s basketball’s loss at Washington State. Chou led the Bruins with 37 minutes played. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)

Women's Basketball

No. 5 UCLA63
Washington State67

By Francis Moon

Feb. 5, 2021 3:41 p.m.

In their fourth straight game decided by less than five points, the Bruins came out on the wrong side for the first time. 

No. 5 UCLA women’s basketball (10-3, 8-3 Pac-12) dropped its first game of the calendar year against Washington State (9-6, 7-6) by a score of 63-67. The loss marks the Bruins’ first to an unranked team this season and their first loss since Dec. 21.

“I think there were a lot of things under our control that we didn’t take care of,” said coach Cori Close. “We have to figure out, ‘Why did that happen?’ You’re just not going to beat good teams in the Pac-12 if you’re not locked in mentally and you don’t play to your strengths.”

The Bruins jumped out to an early 22-16 lead after the first quarter behind seven points each from sophomore guard Charisma Osborne and senior forward Michaela Onyenwere and headed into the halftime break with the score knotted at 35. However, the team combined to shoot 8-of-27 from the field in the second half as it fell behind by as much as nine points in the third period. 

After not making a field goal through the first five minutes of the final quarter, a 3-pointer from freshman forward Emily Bessoir put the Bruins up by one with 3:49 remaining before the Cougars went on a 9-4 run to close the game. 

“We knew with Washington State that whenever we pass the ball into the post they’re going to collapse, so everyone else has to move for our teammates,” said redshirt senior guard Natalie Chou. “We got kind of stagnant, and we weren’t really moving and being good teammates.”

Washington State guard Charlisse Leger-Walker, who also made the layup to force overtime in her last matchup against UCLA on Jan. 17, hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 42 seconds remaining to give the Cougars the lead for good. Leger-Walker finished with 28 points, including four 3-pointers.

“(Leger-Walker’s) got a really amazing balance of strength and aggression, along with skill and shooting ability,” Close said. “She’s one of the best freshmen in the country. I don’t think there’s much doubt about that.”

Osborne posted 21 points – her sixth straight game reaching the 20-point mark – while Onyenwere and Chou finished with 16 and 12 points, respectively. UCLA – which leads the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds per game at 17.2 – finished with 10 offensive boards, its second-lowest total of the season. 

Osborne said it will be a focus moving forward to maintain a high level of intensity on the glass and on defense. 

We didn’t really offensively rebound how we usually rebound,” Osborne said. “In the fourth quarter, we did turn it up at times on defense, and we were able to get stops, but we just have to be really consistent with that.”

For Washington State, the win marks its first over a top-5 opponent in program history while tying the season series with UCLA at one apiece. 

“Every single game is a battle,” Chou said. “Every single team (in the Pac-12) brings something different that we need to focus on. We played (Washington State) down the line last time, and we knew they were a really tough team.”

With just six more scheduled games before the start of the Pac-12 tournament, Close said her team will have to figure out how to improve offensively in order to relieve pressure on their defense. 

“We’ve been struggling offensively – this is not a new thing,” Close said. “We have to do a better job of moving better without the ball, having better ball movement and being tougher to create catches that put the other team in tough positions. This is something we have to figure out how to conquer, and it’s the nut we have to crack.”

UCLA will have one more chance to pick up a victory this weekend when it travels to Seattle to face Washington (4-8, 1-8) on Sunday.

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Francis Moon | Assistant Sports editor
Moon is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, track and field and cross country beats. He was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and women's tennis beats.
Moon is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, track and field and cross country beats. He was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and women's tennis beats.
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