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UCLA women’s basketball travels to Bahamas for season’s first tournament

Senior guard Charisma Osborne commands the backcourt. Osborne is averaging 20.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game this season. (Megan Cai/Assistant Photo editor)

By Alexis Hinkle

Nov. 19, 2022 1:55 p.m.

The Bruins will face their first road test in the uncharted waters of the Bahamas, but a familiar foe awaits them in the first round.

UCLA women’s basketball (3-0) is set to match up against South Dakota State (2-1) in the first game of the

The first round of the tournament might summon some deja vu for UCLA when it faces South Dakota State. Last season, the Bruins were defeated by the Jackrabbits in the semifinal round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament to end its 2021-2022 campaign. This loss came after the blue and gold fell to the Jackrabbits at the beginning of its last season in the Gulf Coast Showcase.

However, the Bruin squad that arrived to the Gulf Coast Showcase last season was one that was dealing with injuries that left them with seven active players. Coming off a foot injury, then-junior guard Charisma Osborne returned to the court in the first round last year and led the team with an average of 18.3 points in the tournament.

This year, Osborne has continued to lead the Bruins.

After her 29-point domination on the court in the blue and gold’s last game against Troy on Sunday, Osborne paced her team with 10 rebounds and a season-high 11-of-17 from the field.

Coach Cori Close said offense is not Osborne’s only strong suit.

“If you talk to her competition they will talk about her defense. I do not think there’s a more versatile, elite defender in the country than Charisma Osborne,” Close said. “As we go into this tournament, obviously she’s an incredible scorer, but her ability to be a lock-up defender in multiple positions is going to be something that we really lean on.”

Osborne said despite her individual efforts on the floor, it takes a village.

“Honestly, I think just by doing what I do with my teammates, and obviously I didn’t do it by myself. My teammates help me out a lot,” Osborne said. “We have a lot of great coaches who have very skilled scouting reports for us so I think just following that and doing whatever is needed.”

Along with Osborne’s leadership, the five freshman players of the nation’s top recruiting class, including guard Kiki Rice and forward Gabriela Jaquez, have continued to use their strengths on the court, leading the Bruins to an undefeated start to the season at home.

In just the three first matches of her career, Rice is averaging 28.3 minutes per game and recently put up a 16-point career-high in the contest against Troy.

“It was just making the reads and making the right plays. I felt like last game, maybe I could’ve been more aggressive, but I had open teammates,” Rice said. “When I was seeing lanes and opportunities this time I was taking them … I wasn’t trying to force it.”

This will be the freshman talents’ first career tournament. Close said they will need to learn how to be mentally prepared to take on multiple games in a row.

“The only other time we’ll have games like this is in the Pac-12 tournament where we’ll have much more familiarity over the course of the year,” Close said. “I think being able to learn to mentally focus quickly. What are the most important things? You’re not going to have a whole lot of physical reps from one game to the next. You’re going to have to do it with mental reps and study and preparation.”

If the blue and gold defeat the Jackrabbits in the first round, it will face either Rutgers or Tennessee in the second round.

UCLA will take the court against South Dakota State on Saturday at 11:30 p.m.

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Alexis Hinkle
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