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Women’s basketball set for rematch against South Dakota State in semifinal of WNIT

UCLA women’s basketball graduate student guard Jaelynn Penn drives into the paint. Penn has a chance to win her second Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship after claiming the title in 2018 with Indiana. (Sarah Teng/Daily Bruin)

Women's basketball


South Dakota State
Thursday, 5 p.m.

Frost Arena
ESPN3

By Grace Whitaker

March 31, 2022 12:12 a.m.

The Bruins will hit the road again with a spot in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship on the line.

UCLA women’s basketball (18-12, 8-8 Pac-12) will head to Brookings, South Dakota, to face South Dakota State (27-9, 17-1 Summit League) in the semifinal of the WNIT on Thursday. The blue and gold is coming off a victory against Oregon State in the quarterfinal with a score of 74-66.

Thursday will not be the first time these two teams have faced off this season. During the Gulf Coast Showcase on Nov. 7, the Jackrabbits handed the Bruins their second loss of the season with a 10-point victory.

Coach Cori Close said since both squads are different teams than they were back in November, the game will come down to who can perform in the moment.

“Neither of us was playing our best basketball back in November when we met,” Close said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a matter of who can scout best. I think it’s going to be really about execution by the players.”

South Dakota State is currently averaging 75 points per game and has four players collecting over 10 points per contest, led by 14.4 a night from forward Myah Selland, 11.4 from forward Paiton Burckhard and 10.4 each from forward Tori Nelson and guard Paige Meyer. Burckhard leads the team in rebounds with 5.6 per game, and Meyer shoots a team-leading 53.4% from beyond the arc.

During their WNIT run, the Jackrabbits took down Ohio, Minnesota, Drake, and most recently, Alabama. Playing at home for the entirety of the tournament, South Dakota State outscored each of its opponents by over 10 points with the exception of Alabama, which it defeated by five points.

Junior guard Charisma Osborne said she is aware of how impactful a WNIT championship appearance can be for the team.

“For the program moving forward, I think this will be very helpful just to the people that will be here on the team next year in terms of chemistry and how we do things,” Osborne said.

In its last WNIT appearance in 2015, UCLA won it all before following it with seven straight NCAA tournament appearances.

Graduate student guard Jaelynn Penn – who won the WNIT in 2018 with Indiana – said she knows the implications of a championship victory for UCLA and expects to win it all this week.

“I just know from that experience how much it helps the program, how much bigger it is than ourselves as individuals,” Penn said. “It’s super important for us to go out there and win this thing.”

The Bruins will tip off against the Jackrabbits on Thursday at 5 p.m. in Frost Arena.

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Grace Whitaker | Assistant Sports editor
Whitaker is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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