Women’s basketball to wrap up regular season with games against Colorado, Utah
Junior forward Michaela Onyenwere went just 4-of-24 from the field for No. 9 UCLA women’s basketball in its road weekend in Washington last weekend. The Bruins split the contests, defeating Washington State before falling to Washington. (MacKenzie Coffman/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Friday, 8 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
By Jon Christon
Feb. 28, 2020 1:39 a.m.
The Bruins have two games left to build momentum toward the postseason.
No. 9 UCLA women’s basketball (23-4, 12-4 Pac-12) will take on Colorado (16-11, 5-11) on Friday and Utah (13-14, 6-10) on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion. The two games will wrap up the 2019-20 regular season for the Bruins, who could finish with their best regular-season winning percentage since the 2010-11 season with a home sweep.
The pair of matchups will also wrap up the home careers of redshirt senior guard Japreece Dean and senior forward Ally Rosenblum, both of whom will receive a Senior Day celebration Sunday.
Dean leads the team in assists and is the Bruins’ second-leading scorer.
“We’ll just miss (Dean’s) presence,” said freshman guard Charisma Osborne. “She’s just a joy to be around and we love having her. It’ll be really sad when she’s gone – we’ll definitely miss her.”
In each of its last four games, UCLA has spent time trailing by double digits. Despite this, the Bruins went 2-2 during this stretch – including a win against No. 17 Oregon State, a game in which Dean put up a team-high 22 points and 12 assists.
In these four games, Osborne – the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week – averaged 21.3 points per game, which is the most by any Bruin over that stretch and good for her highest scoring average over any four-game stretch in her career.
While Osborne has increased her scoring load, junior forward Michaela Onyenwere – the Bruins’ leading scorer – has done the opposite. She has averaged 14.5 points on just 33% shooting over the same stretch, both of which are down from her season averages.
“My best shots are when I’m on balance, and that’s something that I’ve gotten away from,” Onyenwere said. “I’ve been more conscious of the shots that I know I should take and with the shots that maybe I should pass up and get to my teammates.”
In the two matchups against the mountain schools earlier in the season, Onyenwere put up a combined 37 points and 17 rebounds. UCLA won both games, defeating Utah 84-54 on Jan. 10 and Colorado 65-62 on Jan. 12.
The Buffaloes began the season 12-0, but have since gone just 4-11 in their last 13 games. Colorado is coming off a stretch of three straight ranked opponents, which included a 50-38 victory over No. 11 Arizona and single-digit losses to No. 4 Stanford and No. 24 Arizona State.
Coach Cori Close said despite the recent losses for the Buffaloes, the Bruins still have something to play for this weekend.
“The real thing about Colorado is that they’re on the bubble of making the NCAA tournament,” Close said. “We have to understand what they’re playing for. I guarantee you they’re coming for blood and they’re confident right now, so we better be ready.”
Utah is coming off an upset win of its own after defeating Arizona State on Sunday. Guard Brynna Maxwell scored a team-high 15 points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
Maxwell – the conference’s leading 3-point shooter in both total makes and percentage – made just two threes on seven attempts the last time the Bruins and the Utes faced off.
Osborne led the Bruins with two steals against Utah in that last matchup, and she said communication is key when defending a high-volume 3-point shooter.
“Usually teams who have great shooters set a lot of pindown screens, flair screens, hammer screens and stuff like that,” Osborne said. “We just need to be able to communicate with each other and get out on the shooters.”
The third-place Bruins can both rise to second or fall to fourth in the Pac-12 standings, depending on the results of the weekend.
Onyenwere said the games this weekend will be a springboard toward the end-of-season tournaments regardless of where they are in the standings.
“You know, these last games will propel us,” Onyenwere said. “We want to end (the regular season) well so we can start the Pac-12 and NCAA (tournaments) well.”
Tipoff against the Buffaloes will be at 8 p.m. Friday and the game against the Utes will start at 1 p.m. Sunday.