Women’s basketball ends run in Pac-12 tournament with quarterfinal loss to Oregon
UCLA women’s basketball players console graduate student guard Jaelynn Penn after she misses the game-tying jumper. Penn scored 18 points – including 13 in the first half – while making four 3-pointers in the team’s quarterfinal loss to Oregon. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)
|No. 7 seed UCLA||60|
|No. 2 seed Oregon||63|
By Lauryn Wang
March 3, 2022 8:18 p.m.
This post was updated March 7 at 12:09 a.m.
LAS VEGAS — With three seconds remaining, the Bruins were down by three.
Graduate student guard Jaelynn Penn got a look from the top of the key, but it went long as the buzzer sounded.
In a game with 14 lead changes and seven ties, No. 7 seed UCLA women’s basketball (14-12, 8-8 Pac-12) fell to No. 2 seed Oregon (21-10, 11-6) in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament Thursday evening in Las Vegas. The Bruins led by three points entering the final quarter but shot 3-of-13 in the final period as they couldn’t pull off the upset.
The Bruins received 18 points each from Penn and graduate student forward IImar’I Thomas, but junior guard Charisma Osborne, the team’s leading scorer, was held to five points on 2-of-13 shooting.
Thomas, who also scored 18 points in the first round Wednesday, said she will always be grateful for her time donning the blue and gold after the early exit.
“Regardless of how the outcome of this year has been, playing here for me has been a privilege,” Thomas said. “I’m going to keep that with me forever.”
The Ducks won the tipoff but were denied post entry twice before Penn forced a turnover. After Penn missed the fastbreak layup, Oregon immediately put up the first points of the game off a pull-up jumper from guard Endyia Rogers.
The Ducks turned the ball over again, this time leading to a 3-pointer from Osborne. The two teams then traded baskets inside, with Thomas notching a second-chance score to reclaim the lead for the Bruins.
Penn, who posted nine of her 11 points in the fourth quarter Wednesday, led the offensive charge early with seven points in the first five minutes.
While Oregon went on a 7-0 run, UCLA couldn’t convert for almost two minutes until Penn hit a 3-pointer to end the drought. A rebound from junior guard Camryn Brown then led to a put-back score from redshirt freshman forward Izzy Anstey to give the Bruins a one-point advantage.
Penn then forced a backcourt violation, and neither team scored for the rest of the quarter as the Bruins held on to a 17-16 lead.
Redshirt senior guard Kayla Owens made her first basket of the tournament to open the second period. UCLA didn’t convert again until two minutes later, when redshirt senior guard Chantel Horvat sank a 3-pointer to tie the game at 22 points apiece.
Redshirt freshman forward Angela Dugalić – who finished the night with six points after a career night Wednesday – then put up her first points of the game midway through the second quarter with a jumper.
The Ducks responded with two inside looks, but graduate student guard Natalie Chou hit a corner 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. Oregon didn’t make another field goal for the last 2:45 of the quarter while Thomas closed the half with a put-back layup to secure a 32-21 lead.
Penn continued her offensive surge coming out of the locker room, opening the third period with a layup.
The graduate transfer from Indiana, who was playing in her eighth game since recovering from a mid-season hand injury, said her coaches and teammates have helped maintain her confidence regardless of misses.
“My coaches and teammates kept saying, ‘Keep shooting, it’s going to fall,’” Penn said. “That’s the biggest thing, just never losing self-confidence and just believing that I can still be me.”
Behind Chou’s second 3-pointer of the night, the Bruins pulled ahead by five, their largest lead of the game to that point. After the Ducks responded to cut the deficit to three, Osborne made her second field goal of the game on eight attempts.
Two consecutive looks inside to Thomas off assists from Dugalić and Osborne kept UCLA ahead as the two teams traded baskets for five straight possessions. The two teams traded 3-pointers toward the end of the period, and two free throws from Rogers made the score 53-50 heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams logged empty possessions to start the final frame, but two consecutive baskets gave Oregon the lead for the first time since there were 26 seconds left in the first half.
Coach Cori Close said the Bruins’ inability to defend the post and rebound made the difference in the second half, as they allowed Duck forwards Nyara Sabally and Sedona Prince – who each finished the game with double-doubles – to notch a combined 13 rebounds in the final two quarters.
“That’s really where they played, through their post,” Close said. “We couldn’t stop that, especially in the second half.”
The Ducks extended their lead to four off a 3-pointer from guard Te-Hina Paopao, which was immediately followed by a bucket from Dugalić at the 6:37 mark in the fourth quarter.
“The combination of rebounding, post catches, and getting to the free throw line was the difference in the game,” Close said. “And our offense … didn’t quite create the kind of catches for our players to get easier baskets.”
With the Bruins leading 60-59 after a 3-pointer from Thomas with just over four minutes remaining, neither team scored until Rogers made two free throws with 1½ minutes to play.
Down by one with the opportunity to take the last shot, Osborne turned it over with seven seconds remaining. A series of fouls put the Ducks at the line, where Sabally notched two free throws and secured the lead for Oregon for good.
Close said she is proud of her players and the work they put in toward the end of the season and added that she feels her team is deserving of an NCAA tournament bid despite the loss.
“Our team showed tremendous fight,” Close said. “When you look at that game, you can’t tell me this isn’t an NCAA tournament-level team.”