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Career night for Charisma Osborne carries UCLA women’s basketball to Sweet 16

Senior guard Charisma Osborne jubilantly approaches the bench. Osborne accomplished a career-high 36 points alongside eight rebounds and four assists to help the Bruins overcome Oklahoma’s 26-point third quarter comeback effort. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

women’s basketball

No. 5 seed Oklahoma73
No. 4 seed UCLA82

By Gavin Carlson

March 20, 2023 9:53 p.m.

This post was updated on March 20 at 11:16 p.m..

In potentially her final game at Pauley Pavilion, Charisma Osborne laid on her back injured. 

The senior guard had already had a career-defining game, scoring 16 points in the first half to move up two spots and into 10th on UCLA’s all-time scoring list. But she had also watched the Bruins’ 18-point lead spiral into a four-point deficit as she held her right wrist in pain.

After her teammates helped her back to her feet, UCLA’s leader made sure this wasn’t the end of her storied career.

Just moments later, Osborne drove to the basket for an and-one score before turning to the crowd and asking for their support with five seconds left in the third quarter. Little did anyone know that a quarter later, she’d be yelling to the crowd with five seconds left in the game, celebrating another postseason victory and career-best scoring performance.

Behind a career-high 36 points from Osborne – including the team’s final nine points in the last minute of the game – No. 4 seed UCLA women’s basketball (27-9, 11-7 Pac-12) defeated No. 5 seed Oklahoma (26-7, 14-4 Big Ten) by a score of 82-73 to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019 – and the first time in Osborne’s career.

Osborne said she was overcome with emotion after walking off the court one last time.

“I was just excited and shocked – this is crazy that we’re going to the Sweet 16,” Osborne said. “It felt like such a team win, so just to go out in Pauley this season like that – that was just a great feeling.”

With 6:42 left in the third quarter, Osborne reached the 20-point scoring mark with back-to-back layups to push UCLA’s lead to 15. But then a Sooner scoring spurt commenced to temporarily put an end to Osborne’s farewell party. 

Oklahoma went on a 14-0 run in under four minutes to turn a 47-32 score into a one-point lead for the blue and gold. After a layup from graduate student guard Gina Conti ended the drought for the Bruins, the Sooners continued their third quarter domination with another 8-1 run over the next minute and a half.

In a span of six minutes, Oklahoma ultimately outscored UCLA 22-3 to transform its 15-point deficit into a 54-50 advantage. The and-one from Osborne in the final seconds of the quarter cut the score to 54-53, but the Bruins still trailed heading into potentially their final quarter of the season.

But the blue and gold did just enough in the fourth.

After trading scores for a majority of the quarter, UCLA led 65-61 with three minutes to play. From then on, the Bruins made 17 free throws and outscored the Sooners 17-12 to clinch the victory. 

Following the only made field goal of the final five minutes for UCLA from Osborne with 1:49 remaining in the game, freshman guard Kiki Rice clinched a pair from the charity stripe before Osborne iced the game away with nine-straight free throw makes. 

After the last made free throw, Osborne checked out of the game for likely the final time in front of a standing ovation from the Pauley Pavilion crowd. With her 36 points, the star had set a new program record for points in a postseason game.

Coach Cori Close reflected on the growth of her relationship with Osborne following the historic performance.

“We’ve wrestled through the struggle, her and I have worked at our relationship and I deeply love her and I believe in her so much,” Close said. “It actually goes even deeper because it hasn’t always been easy… To see that moment and see the light in her eyes, that was just a joy for me.”

Freshman guard Kiki Rice drives the baseline. Rice contributed 14 points on Monday night, her ninth double-digit performance in the Bruins’ last 10 games. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin staff)

Moments after falling behind 5-2 to begin the contest, UCLA took control of the Round of 32 matchup early by forcing eight Oklahoma turnovers in the opening quarter. 

Osborne began a 17-9 stretch for the Bruins over the final 8:30 of the first quarter with a mid range jumper. The starting guard trio of Osborne, Rice and Conti combined for 14 of the blue and gold’s 21 first-quarter points to jump out to a 21-13 lead heading into the second period.

Then the Bruins looked to be headed for a cruise control victory. 

Behind the excellence of Osborne, UCLA opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run in the opening two and a half minutes of the quarter. The Southern California native began the quarter with another patented midrange jumper before hitting a 3-pointer from several feet behind the arc. 

Osborne finished the run with another midrange jumper to reach a double-digit scoring milestone midway through the second quarter and give the Bruins a commanding 32-14 advantage. With the early scoring stretch, Osborne moved into 11th all-time on UCLA’s scoring list.

But the Bruins’ leader wasn’t done defining her legacy.

After a quick 7-0 run in less than 90 seconds to push UCLA’s lead to 11, Osborne responded with another 3-pointer before snatching a steal and following with a wide open layup. That triple pushed Osborne to 10th on the all-time scoring list, and the layup stretched the Bruins’ lead back to 16.

By halftime, Osborne had 16 points on 58.3% shooting and UCLA held the lead by 13 points. Then, things got interesting, but the Bruins ultimately survived to reach the final 16 of the NCAA Tournament where they’ll face No. 1 seed South Carolina for a second time this season.

Rice said she’s excited UCLA has a chance at revenge.

“Obviously we weren’t able to finish the job in the fourth quarter the first time, so to get another shot at them when we feel like we’ve gotten so much better is a great opportunity,” Rice said. “We’re not scared that they’re the number one seed, we have no doubt in us.”

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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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