UCLA women’s basketball cages the Cougars to start conference win streak
Junior guard Charisma Osborne shoots a free throw during UCLA women’s basketball’s win over Washington State on Sunday afternoon. Osborne converted on seven of her 15 shot attempts to score a team-high 25 points while sinking a season-high eight free throws. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin staff)
Jan. 16, 2022 2:18 p.m.
This post was updated Jan. 17 at 7:36 p.m.
For the second time in three days, the Bruins overcame a single-digit first-quarter point total on the way to a win.
After facing an early double-digit deficit in the opening frame, UCLA women’s basketball (7-4, 2-1 Pac-12) defeated Washington State (10-6, 2-3) by a score of 71-58 in Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins went on to outscore the Cougars 26-11 for the remainder of the first half and managed to pull away in the second half and earn their second consecutive double-digit win.
The Bruins allowed the Cougars to jump out to an early 7-0 lead, prompting coach Cori Close to call the first timeout of the afternoon just over two minutes into the game. In the team huddle, Close could be heard shouting at her players.
“I was very animated,” Close said. “Every time I put the four letters on to represent something bigger than myself, we take this very seriously, and we didn’t honor that the first four minutes. We’ve got to take responsibility for that.”
Graduate student guard Jaelynn Penn said the early talk from Close challenged the team to play better on both ends of the floor.
“She called us out for being selfish on offense,” Penn said. “We weren’t really giving energy (and were) taking tough shots late in the shot clock. … She challenged us to step up as a team – that’s not how we start as UCLA.”
Both teams went on a two-minute scoring drought following the timeout before junior guard Charisma Osborne got the Bruins on the scoreboard with a pair of free throws. However, the blue and gold failed to score again for almost four minutes while Washington State went on a 6-0 run to put UCLA behind by a score of 13-2.
UCLA responded to the early double-digit hole and 0-of-13 start from the field with an 11-0 run that spanned across two quarters. By the end of the first half, the Bruins pushed the run to 26-11 and took a four-point lead into the halftime break.
Osborne led UCLA with a perfect shooting performance in the second quarter, scoring 13 points while sinking all four of her shot attempts – including two from beyond the arc and three from the foul line. The second-quarter scoring outburst for the Pac-12’s third-leading scorer – who finished with 25 points for the game – came after Osborne’s two lowest scoring performances of the season.
After scoring more points Sunday than the 22 she had in her previous two games combined, Osborne said her commitment to leadership led to a better personal performance.
“I was just thinking about seeing how I could be the best leader and give the most energy,” Osborne said. “Everything else just came after that.”
In addition to her second-highest scoring output of the season, Osborne recorded a season-high three steals while shooting a perfect 8-of-8 from the foul line.
Besides Osborne, three other Bruins scored in the first half. Graduate student forward IImar’I Thomas – whose 18 points per game entering Sunday ranked first on her team and second in the Pac-12 – was held to three points on as many shot attempts in the first half.
UCLA shot 30% from the floor and 27% from beyond the arc in the first half but went 7-of-8 from the line while not allowing a single free throw attempt to hold a 28-24 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
Coming out of the break, Penn – who finished with 17 points – led the Bruins with eight points in the third quarter, while guard Charlisse Leger-Walker and forward Ula Motuga scored eight apiece for the Cougars. The quarter featured seven lead changes, but UCLA was able to escape the back-and-forth affair with a 49-47 lead heading into the fourth.
Despite allowing 24 points from Leger-Walker, Penn and Osborne forced the Washington guard and her twin and backcourt mate, Krystal Leger-Walker, to shoot a combined 10-of-28 from the field and commit eight turnovers.
Close said her starting guards are growing defensively and have the potential to become the best defensive backcourt in the entire country.
“They’re really growing in their pride in that area,” Close said. “They really could grow into being the best defensive backcourt in the country. They’re not there yet, but you’re seeing glimpses.”
Clinging onto a two-point lead following the third period, the Bruins used one more run in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Leading 52-51 with 8:50 left in the game, UCLA went on a 15-2 spurt in five minutes to stretch the lead to 14. The blue and gold also forced five turnovers, and Thomas, Penn and graduate student guard Natalie Chou each added a 3-pointer during the run.
Six of the seven active Bruins scored in the final period while their defense forced seven of the Cougar’s 18 total turnovers to help UCLA outscore its opponent 22-11 in the quarter.
UCLA has now won back-to-back conference games with just seven active players, but Close said the team isn’t talking about its difficult circumstances anymore.
“Whatever we’ve got, we’re going to find a way because we’re going to give everything to each other to make it happen,” Close said.
With the win, the Bruins still have yet to drop a home contest against the Cougars in 34 all-time matchups at Pauley Pavilion.