Women’s basketball ends season with loss to Texas in 2nd round of NCAA tournament
No. 3 seed UCLA women’s basketball was upset by No. 6 seed Texas on Wednesday after the Bruins scored a season-low 14 first-half points. UCLA went on to score 48 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to extend UCLA’s season. (Courtesy of Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos)
|No. 6 seed Texas||71|
|No. 3 seed UCLA||62|
By Francis Moon
March 24, 2021 9:07 p.m.
This post was updated March 24 at 9:55 p.m.
Michaela Onyenwere once again led her team in scoring, but this time it wasn’t enough to keep the Bruins’ season alive.
No. 3 seed UCLA women’s basketball (17-6, 12-4 Pac-12) suffered a 71-62 upset to No. 6 seed Texas (20-9, 11-7 Big 12), coming just short of punching a ticket to the Sweet 16 for the fifth straight tournament. In what could be her final collegiate game, the senior forward put up 21 points before fouling out with 3:23 left, but the rest of her team contributed 41 points on 31% shooting.
An emotional coach Cori Close praised Onyenwere for her resilience and leadership after the unexpected early end to the season.
“You don’t get many of her – I’ve been doing this 28 years and God, that kid is special,” Close said. “She shows up every day and she cares more about the team than herself. She shows up every day and she absolutely commits to improvement in mastering her craft, in dreaming the biggest dreams but having the work ethic to match.”
After putting up 40 points in the first half of its matchup against Wyoming in the first round, UCLA put up a season-low 14 in the first half Wednesday. Onyenwere accounted for 10 of those points, while the rest of her team combined to shoot 1-of-14 from the field.
Despite putting up eight points while turning the ball over six times, the Bruins found themselves down only five points after the opening period. The two teams combined to shoot 9-of-28 from the field to begin the game.
The offensive struggles continued for the Bruins, as Onyenwere made her team’s only two field goals of the second quarter to bookend a 6:20-long scoring drought, while the team endured a 12-0 Texas run as a result. The team ended the first half with eight turnovers and a single assist.
On the other end, Texas guard Celeste Taylor led all scorers with 12 first-half points while four other Longhorns put up at least five. The team recorded 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting and one turnover in the second quarter to take a 35-14 lead heading into the break.
“Credit to Texas, they did a really good job of making timely shots,” Close said. “They kept us out of what we wanted to do in the first half and put us in a situation where we were chasing.”
Coming out of the locker room, Onyenwere received help in the form of sophomore guard Charisma Osborne, who contributed eight of the team’s 27 points in the third quarter and finished with 19. UCLA matched its first-half total five minutes into the second half, as it slowly ate away at the deficit, trimming the lead to 10 heading into the final period.
Freshman forward Emily Bessoir became the third double-digit scorer for the Bruins by posting all 11 of her points in the second half. However, the Bruins failed to find their shot and didn’t hit their first 3-pointer until the final minutes of the game, and finished shooting 1-of-19 from beyond the arc, a season low in both total and efficiency.
“I’m really proud of their fight in the second half,” Close said. “We kept fighting and kept believing – I’m proud of their response in that.”
Senior forward Lauryn Miller, who guarded Texas forward/center Charli Collier for a majority of the game, exited with a right knee injury in the fourth quarter to thin an already-short-handed UCLA lineup. Collier – the projected No. 1-overall pick of next month’s WNBA Draft – scored five points on three shot attempts after putting up a 23-point double-double in the opening round.
Onyenwere eclipsed the 20-point mark for the fifth time in her last six games to become the fourth-highest scorer in UCLA history to finish her collegiate career with 1,888 career points. Also a projected top pick in the WNBA Draft, the forward concludes the season averaging a career-high 19.1 points per game on the campaign.
“UCLA has had everything to do with the player that I am and the person that I am today,” Onyenwere said. “I’m incredibly proud of my team this year. I’m incredibly proud to have the honor to go to UCLA and have the experiences that I did. Today was rough, but I’m extremely grateful for everything UCLA has given me.”
The Bruins and Longhorns most recently met in the 2018 tournament, a game in which Onyenwere scored eight points off the bench to help her team make the Elite Eight. Texas had UCLA’s number tonight, however, as UCLA’s tournament run comes to an end in the Round of 32 for the first time since 2013.
“This year wasn’t what anybody expected,” Onyenwere said. “We had a lot of ups and downs, we had a lot of adversity. I think we learned a lot from this season even though it ended in this way.”