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UCLA women’s basketball notches 1st conference win of season over Washington

UCLA women’s basketball graduate student forward IImar’I Thomas is defended on the wing by Washington center Nancy Mulkey during the two teams’ matchup Friday evening. Thomas scored a team-high 25 points on the night while shooting 12-of-18 from the field. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)

Women’s basketball


By Lauryn Wang

Jan. 14, 2022 9:21 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 14 at 10:27 p.m.

After trailing at halftime, the Bruins were able to pull away and secure their first victory against a Pac-12 team this season.

UCLA women’s basketball (6-4, 1-1 Pac-12) defeated Washington (5-4, 0-1) at Pauley Pavilion on Friday evening to maintain a perfect 5-0 record at home. The win is the first for the Bruins since Dec. 5 as they have lost both of their games since then, including their conference opener Jan. 9.

The Bruins started the game with three straight turnovers before getting on the scoreboard but soon began to convert on second and third passes, while the Huskies missed multiple layups in transition. They also kept the Huskies’ completely off the boards on the defensive end in the first quarter, allowing zero offensive rebounds for the Huskies while garnering nine defensive rebounds. Coach Cori Close said the early turnaround offered some hope as the team is still working to integrate new players to the roster while enduring injuries as well.

“The combination of adding eight new players who weren’t on our roster and then having such a disruption of three kids that might have been starting for us (getting injured), … it has been harder than I thought, and it’s taking a little longer than I thought,” Close said. “Every game, we’re learning a little more about our identity.”

After allowing eight offensive rebounds against Colorado in its last match, UCLA turned it around by keeping Washington completely off the boards on the defensive end. The Bruins allowed zero offensive rebounds in the first quarter while garnering nine defensive boards.

By the end of the first quarter, Washington led with a score of  9-7, with the two teams combining to shoot 26.9% from the field. Junior guard Charisma Osborne, who averaged 18.4 points per game on 15.8 shot attempts entering the matchup, didn’t attempt a field goal until the middle of the second quarter while missing her first two free throws of the game. 

After the Bruins posted their lowest first-quarter point total of the season, redshirt senior guard Chantel Horvat provided a spark off the bench by matching her season-high in a game with six points in six minutes. Despite six points each from Horvat and Osborne in the second quarter, the Bruins faced a three-point deficit heading into halftime with the score sitting at 27-24.

In the paint, the Bruins were met with the presence of a defense led by 6-foot-9 center Nancy Mulkey – the nation’s third-leading shot blocker – who blocked the only shot of the night for either team. Graduate student forward IImar’I Thomas still had her way under the basket, however, scoring 20 of her 25 total points in the game in the paint.

“This was IImar’I’s most complete effort game – defensively and offensively,” Close said. “I told her, ‘You can’t play offense one game and defense the other game,’ and she’s good enough to do it. She’s strong enough, and she’s fighting through.”

Thomas showed a lack of early involvement in the Bruins’ offense last game against Colorado on Jan. 9 with her first shot attempt coming in the last minute of the first half. However, the Bruins’ second-leading scorer on the season nearly single-handedly outscored Washington in the second half, posting 20 points to the Huskies’ 21.

After starting the game shooting 1-of-6 from the floor, graduate student guard Jaelynn Penn sank all five of her attempts in the third quarter – the second of which gave her team a lead it would not relinquish for the remainder of the game. Penn also forced a turnover and notched two assists in the period as the Bruins went on a 15-5 run to close the quarter by holding a ten-point lead.

Close said Penn’s efficiency and ability to come back from a turnover was instrumental to shifting the momentum towards the Bruins.

“She had some tough turnovers,” Close said. “But she just went on to the next play. We needed a couple of really key buckets, and she got us those in the third quarter.” 

Penn said her main focus was getting to the basket while stopping Washington on the defensive end.

“After my couple of missed shots, Coach was just telling me to attack the basket, get some stops on defense, and kind of get my rhythm because I’m a rhythm player,” Penn said.  “Just to be aggressive really was a main point.” 

Entering the fourth quarter, UCLA experienced a scoring drought lasting over three minutes, but defensive stops and a charge call prevented Washington from retaking the lead for the rest of the game. Behind 12 fourth-quarter points from Thomas, the Bruins were able to pull away and secure their first victory of the calendar year. After a 29-day hiatus sandwiched between two losses, Thomas said the win proved the team is growing together.

“We had to lean on each other,” Thomas said. “We’re all we have, but we’re also all we need.” 

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Lauryn Wang | Sports contributor
Wang is currently a Sports contributor on the women's basketball and men's golf beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's golf beat.
Wang is currently a Sports contributor on the women's basketball and men's golf beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's golf beat.
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