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UCLA women’s basketball drops to Utah in 2nd loss of weekend

Redshirt sophomore forward Emily Bessoir looks for an open player to pass to. Bessoir collected 17 points against Utah, including five 3-pointers. (Mattias de los Rios Rogers/Daily Bruin)

Women's basketball

No. 8 UCLA69
No. 9 Utah71

By Alexis Hinkle

Jan. 29, 2023 1:30 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Emily Bessoir’s name in a sentence.

This post was updated Jan. 29 at 11:47 p.m. 

Baskets from beyond the arc were the Bruins’ key to staying in the game.

Behind redshirt sophomore forward Emily Bessoir, the blue and gold shot 45% from the 3-point range.

But it wasn’t enough to secure the victory, as a last-minute play by Utah determined the outcome of the game.

Coach Cori Close said she is challenging her players to use the pain of the loss to keep working harder.

“This one really stings because we felt like we gave it away in the last four minutes, but credit to Utah,” Close said. “I just ask our players to let it sting, let it teach our hearts and show up ready to get better tomorrow.”

No. 8 UCLA women’s basketball (17-5, 6-4 Pac-12) could not pull away with a win at the mountain schools. No. 9 Utah (18-2, 8-2) escaped with a 71-69 victory at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Sunday morning, causing the Bruins’ second loss of the weekend.

An assist from senior guard Camryn Brown, who appeared in the starting lineup for the first time across the last four matchups, gave Bessoir a 3-pointer in just the first 12 seconds of the game.

The Bruins went on an 8-0 run after a pair of early threes and forced turnovers, preventing Utah from getting on the board until three minutes in. But after their initial points of the game from the charity stripe, the Utes went on a 9-0 run to catch up to the blue and gold and lead for the first time.

Bessoir, a 34% shooter from beyond the arc, made yet another 3-pointer to end the Bruins’ five-minute scoring drought. Both teams were unable to take the lead at the end of the first frame after fouls at both ends of the court and a low field goal percentage, which had the game tied at 16.

The blue and gold was not finished from the 3-point range. Freshman guard Londynn Jones opened the second frame with one of her own, following Bessoir who held a 100% 3-point percentage for the entire first half.

Bessoir said her ability to make the 3-pointers came from the work that she and her teammates put in together.

“We practice every day together,” Bessoir said. “We know which shots we’re looking for, and they found me in positions that I was ready to shoot. I credit my teammates for that.”

But the Utes were also successful and shot 41.7% from long at the end of the first half. However, because of three stops and nine rebounds, the Bruins went into the locker room leading by three.

Despite the support of the lead, the Bruins opened the second half by giving up the ball three times, while the Utes went on an 8-0 run in two minutes to grant them a lead of five.

But Brown began a UCLA run of her own to bring the game within two, and Bessoir, who bested her season high in points, made two additional 3s to extend the lead with four minutes to go. After a 15-2 run from the blue and gold, Utah had no field goals in over six minutes. Forward Alissa Pili, who leads scoring for Utah and the conference, had an uncharacteristic four points in the third frame.

However, Pili returned to the last frame with her team to bring the score within three with five minutes to go. The Bruin run began to slow down as freshman guard Kiki Rice fouled out, and Jones and Bessoir faced trouble themselves with four fouls a piece.

Pili was not done. After neither team made many field goals in the fourth quarter, Pili took away the Bruins’ lead by making a 3 and tying the game 69-69 with 40 seconds left in the contest. And in the last second, she drove to the basket past freshman forward Christeen Iwuala and made a layup to escape with a victory.

“Christeen Iwuala, this was a breakout weekend for her in terms of the defensive end of the floor,” Close said. “Pili is not exactly an easy matchup. She was saying, ‘Hey welcome to big-time college basketball.’”

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Alexis Hinkle
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