Friday, July 19, 2024

AdvertiseDonateSubmit
NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds

Led by Rice, UCLA women’s basketball defeats Creighton to return to Sweet 16

Sophomore guard Kiki Rice pulls up for a jumper as defenders guard her. Rice scored 24 points against the Bluejays, and 13 of them came in the third quarter alone. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

Women’s Basketball


No. 7 seed Creighton63
No. 2 seed UCLA67

By Grace Whitaker

March 25, 2024 8:21 p.m.

This post was updated March 25 at 10:48 p.m.

Ten minutes stood between an end to the season for UCLA or a trip to Albany, New York, for the chance to play the reigning national champions. 

But a 24-point performance from sophomore guard Kiki Rice punched the Bruins’ ticket and kept her squad’s title hopes alive for another day. 

Backed by a second-half fight, No. 2 seed UCLA women’s basketball (27-6, 13-5 Pac-12) overcame No. 7 seed Creighton (26-6, 15-3 Big East), 67-63 in the second round of March Madness on Monday. Despite digging itself into a 10-point deficit in the first half, UCLA managed a comeback that sent the Bruins to Albany to face No. 3 seed LSU in the Sweet 16. 

At that point in the night, UCLA was one of four Pac-12 teams headed to the next round with the opportunity for two more to join them later that night. Coach Cori Close said this was indicative of the caliber of talent within the conference this season.

“Every coach is campaigning that their conferences are the best in the country,” Close said. “I’m going to say our numbers are backing it up. You know that I just think we have prepared each other to be ready for big moments.” 

As for the game at hand, ironically enough, it began as a battle of the Laurens. 

Backed by a 6 inch height advantage, sophomore center Lauren Betts cruised to collect the Bruins’ first six points, but the Bluejays managed to find other ways to score. 

Creighton guard Lauren Jensen spurred the squad, collecting two back-to-back 3-pointers within the first four minutes and elevating her team to a four-point lead. 

The Bluejays continued to accelerate their lead throughout the duration of the first half, with Jensen contributing nine points in the quarter alone and adding six in the second. The guard was good for a 54.5% clip from the field that half and was 2-for-3 from deep. 

Sophomore center Lauren Betts prepares to shoot a layup on a defender. Betts notched 20 points on Monday night. (Julia Zhou/Photo editor)

On the other side of the court, UCLA’s net grew dusty in the second quarter. 

The Bruins managed to score just 15 points throughout the quarter, sending them into a double-digit deficit five times. UCLA ran into the locker room at halftime down eight and with its season’s end on the line. 

Close said at the half, she reminded her team of the dire nature of the win-or-go-home tournament.

“‘You got 20 minutes to prove it,’” Close said. “And at halftime, I really laid into them about choices. We don’t give up that many points in a half to anybody. And so we needed to just get back to doing things with our defense.”

But heading into the second half, tensions surfaced as the crowd rose to its feet, energizing the young Bruin squad to further its campaign.

UCLA took advantage of the energy, emerging out of the break on an 18-8 clip that carried it to its first lead since late in the first quarter. 

“Our crowd, they carried us,” Close said. “In the third quarter, the energy that they gave us was so key.” 

Off a nine-point third quarter at that point from sophomore guard Kiki Rice, UCLA managed to find its way back in the driver’s seat. But not by much. 

Throughout her 17-point second-half performance, Rice said she was just looking to execute the game plan.

“It was just finding a way to … get a stop, get a score. So that’s what we did in the second half,” Rice said. “It was just not letting the deficit at halftime take away from our focus and what we needed to execute.”

The narrow lead won by a coast-to-coast layup from Rice was just a mere two points that was swiftly matched by the Bluejays to force the outcome of the game to be determined in the final 10 minutes.

Despite only scoring two baskets across her last game in Pauley Pavilion, graduate student guard Charisma Osborne contributed significant plays on offense and defense, guiding her team in the waning moments. Betts said that’s just who she is. 

“That’s just Charisma. She’s just a tough player,” Betts said. “I mean, she doesn’t need to score, she just works so hard. And she’s such a great example for the rest of us sophomores who are trying to be like her.”

The programs traded runs across the initial eight minutes of the quarter with UCLA opening the frame off of a 9-2 clip and Creighton responding with a 5-0 run of its  own. But ultimately a pair of 20-plus point performances from Rice and Betts proved the difference, and the Bruins’ title hopes grew even sweeter.

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
Grace Whitaker | Sports senior staff
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
COMMENTS
Featured Classifieds
Apartments for Rent

WESTWOOD VILLAGE Large 1BR 1 Bath $2,700 (includes 1 parking space). Available now. Beautifully landscaped courtyard building, laundry room, pool, elevator, subterranean garage. 691 Levering Avenue leveringheights.com (310) 208-3647

More classifieds »
Related Posts