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UCLA women’s basketball braces for underdog matchup against Stanford

Freshman guard Londynn Jones drives toward the basket. Jones scored a career-high 22 points in UCLA’s last victory over USC. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin senior staff)

women's basketball

No. 2 Stanford
Friday, 8 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion
No TV info

By Gavin Carlson

Jan. 13, 2023 12:42 a.m.

Riding the emotional high from the comeback win against their crosstown rivals, the Bruins will welcome the Pac-12’s flagship program for a top-eight matchup in Westwood.

No. 8 UCLA women’s basketball (14-2, 3-1 Pac-12) will put its perfect home record to the test when it hosts conference-leading No. 2 Stanford (16-1, 4-0) on Friday night. The Bruins are 8-0 at Pauley Pavilion after coming back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit against USC on Sunday, but they’ll now play the underdog role against a Cardinal program that is the reigning Pac-12 champion and is undefeated in conference play.

Senior guard Charisma Osborne said the blue and gold’s win over the Trojans will serve as a necessary learning experience ahead of this key matchup.

“After that game, we knew that we have a lot to grow,” Osborne said. “We’re about to play the No. 2 team in the country, so I think the mindset is, ‘How can we get better? How can we learn from this last game?’”

Osborne and the rest of the UCLA offense struggled for a majority of the matchup against USC. The Bruins’ leading scorer finished the game shooting 2-of-16 from the field, and the team had more turnovers than made shots heading into the fourth quarter prior to the comeback.

The rivalry game was Osborne’s first contest back after suffering a left shoulder injury in a Dec. 30 battle against Oregon and missing the New Year’s Day matchup with Oregon State. She wore a brace on her left shoulder during Sunday’s comeback win, and said she is still not close to feeling fully healthy.

“I’m definitely not 100 percent,” Osborne said. “It depends on the day honestly, but maybe 65-70. I’m trying to work back and get my shoulder right … back to where I was before.”

Osborne is no stranger to Stanford showdowns, having played six games against the conference powerhouse thus far in her career, but many key members of the blue and gold will play their first contest against the Cardinal on Friday.

Despite being one of just four active Bruins yet to have started a game this season, freshman guard Londynn Jones has stacked consecutive career games off the bench during Osborne’s injury stint.

Jones set a career high with 17 points on five made 3s in the team’s lone game without Osborne and followed that performance with a new career high with 22 points to help UCLA erase a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. Aside from the freshman, the Bruins shot 25% from the field and scored just 39 points against USC.

Jones – who made seven 3-pointers on 46.7% shooting in her last two games – said her recent performance has simply maintained her confidence in herself.

“My confidence is pretty huge right now – my confidence is always pretty huge,” Jones said. “I know what I’m capable of, but just seeing your work pay off is always something a college athlete wants.”

Jones isn’t alone.

Though limited to six points Sunday, freshman guard Kiki Rice – UCLA’s headlining recruit in its top-ranked freshman class – did score a career-high 21 points and 20 points in her first-ever games against Oregon and Oregon State, respectively. The No. 2 overall recruit in her class has averaged 12.9 points and 3.1 assists per game through her first 16 college games, both good for second on the team.

In addition to Jones and Rice, freshman forwards Gabriela Jaquez, Christeen Iwuala and Lina Sontag are all averaging at least 15 minutes per game. Coach Cori Close said her reliance on her freshmen is unlike any other elite college basketball program.

“I don’t think there’s another top-15 team in the country – men’s or women’s – that all of the freshman are averaging double digits or more,” Close said. “It doesn’t exist.”

But regardless of who’s on the floor, the Bruins will have their hands full against a Stanford team whose lone loss came in overtime against No.1 South Carolina.

UCLA has struggled to score efficiently, as its 40.6% shooting from the field ranks 178th in the country. Meanwhile, Stanford ranks 11th nationally with its 48.2% shooting from the field, and is an even better 8th-best defensively by holding opponents to 33.7% shooting.

The Cardinal have also won four of their last five matchups against the blue and gold and dominated the Bruins in a 76-48 blowout at Pauley Pavilion last season.

But Stanford did need a 7-0 game-ending run to survive an upset bid from California in its previous game. Additionally, while the Cardinal notably took the top-ranked Gamecocks to overtime in Palo Alto earlier this season, UCLA joins its Pac-12 foe as two of the three teams to keep its South Carolina matchup within single digits.

Ahead of her first matchup against Stanford, Jones said she believes the team can pull off the upset.

“Definitely the underdog,” Jones said. “If every single last one of us want it, I mean there’s no telling us no. We got it.”

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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