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Guards ‘control the game’ for No. 2 UCLA women’s basketball, sweep UConn

Sophomore guard Kiki Rice rises for a shot. Rice has recorded two double-doubles in just six games to start the 2023-24 season. (Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff)

By Alexis Hinkle

Nov. 30, 2023 11:56 a.m.

Coach Cori Close reiterated a common phrase after her team’s historic win over then-No. 6 Connecticut.

“The work done in the dark always eventually gets revealed in the light,” Close said.

UCLA women’s basketball (6-0) – now holding the highest national ranking in program history at No. 2 – has not only achieved this milestone, but also secured its first-ever victory against the University of Connecticut. The team has also gained a center in 6-foot-7 sophomore Lauren Betts, who is second on the team in scoring and first in rebounding.

The Bruins are leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of success.

But despite what writes the headlines, Close said the real driving force behind her squad is the prowess of its guards.

“We are going to go as far as our guard play takes us,” Close said. “I know Lauren Betts is a huge piece of what we’re doing, but these guys (the guards) control the game.”

Guard Kiki Rice has been the Bruins’ starting point guard thus far. The sophomore has already notched two double-doubles in six games compared to just one last year. Taking on the role of the primary playmaker, she has tallied the most assists on the team.

Rice outperformed her upperclassmen opponents while facing UConn, recording 24 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to lead her team to a 78-67 victory in which it never trailed.

“Everyone was moving really well around me,” Rice said. “Our posts set really good screens to get me open, all of the other guards moved well for open 3s and I thought we did a great job and everyone played off each other really well.”

Alongside Rice is Charisma Osborne, the graduate student guard who has decided to forgo the WNBA for another year.

She has unfinished business – never reaching past the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA March Madness.

Osborne climbed to fourth on the program’s all-time scoring list. Propelling her ascent is her improvement beyond the arc.

The veteran currently sits at the top of the team in 3-point shooting – her first time in that position since her freshman season. She carried a 60% clip against the Huskies, the most 3-pointers she’s made off of 10 attempts in her whole career.

“I’m really confident in my 3-point shot,” Osborne said. “Like Kiki, I’ve put in a lot of work this offseason trying to get that more consistent.”

Sophomore guard Londynn Jones, who made the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team alongside Rice in 2022-2023, marked a career-best six 3-pointers in the season-opener against Purdue. As one of UCLA’s top scorers, Jones is already exceeding her play from last season.

During her first six games as a freshman, the 5-foot-4 guard accumulated a total of 28 points without starting a game. But this year, in the same amount of time, she has surged to 82 points on four double-digit performances in five starts.

Behind the work in the dark from the guard trio of Rice, Osborne and Jones, the Bruins are 6-0 in a season that may transcend higher than ever before.

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Alexis Hinkle
Hinkle is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's tennis, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Hinkle is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's tennis, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. She is also a second-year sociology student.
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