Following yet another loss, the Bruins are on the brink of doing something they haven’t done in seven years.
UCLA women’s basketball (11-11, 6-7 Pac-12) lost to Colorado (17-7, 6-7) by a score of 67-54 at Pauley Pavilion on Friday night, falling under .500 in-conference and dropping in the standings yet again. After starting Pac-12 play 4-1, the Bruins have dropped six out of eight and are in danger of missing out on a first-round bye in the conference tournament for the first time since 2015.
The string of losses, extended by the Buffaloes’ dominance in the paint and at the line, has had one positive, though, with UCLA getting several players back from injury over the past few weeks.
That nearly took a sharp turn for the worse on Friday, with guard Charisma Osborne, guard Chantel Horvat and forward Izzy Anstey all going down with their own injury scares. All three returned to the court, meaning at least the only loss the Bruins’ suffered was the one on the scoreboard.
Forward IImar’I Thomas scored her team’s first eight points, then after a pair of free throws by guard Dominique Onu, Anstey and forward Angela Dugalic hit a couple layups and Thomas hit a 3-pointer. The Bruins’ frontcourt accounted for 15 of their team’s 17 points as they took a five-point lead, but then the Buffaloes tied it up before the end of the opening frame.
Both sides traded 3-pointers in the second quarter, starting when Onu knocked one down with a hand in her face as the shot clock expired. Onu may have jogged back down the court shrugging like Michael Jordan, but the Buffaloes answered with a triple of their own just seconds later.
Following a stretch of seven straight missed shots, guard Natalie Chou swished a corner 3 off a an assist from Thomas – becoming the 39th player in program history to surpass 1,000 career points – in her first appearance off the bench since Dec. 13, 2020. Thomas then tied things up at 26 all with a layup midway through the second.
Colorado created some solid separation, though, sinking a 3-pointer before knocking down six free throws in the final three minutes of the half. Thomas hit another layup to reach 15 points in the first half alone, and guard Kayla Owens scored at the buzzer off a dish from Osborne, but UCLA was still down 37-30 at the break.
Osborne was scoreless in the first half, and she and Onu were shooting 1-of-9 from the field after putting up 32 points on 11-of-23 shooting at Oregon on Wednesday. The starting backcourt was still making a mark, each going into halftime with four assists.
The Bruins as a whole were sharing the ball well through the first two quarters, as 11 of their 12 field goals were assisted.
UCLA did have nine first half turnovers, and they added a 10th, 11th and 12th on the first three possessions of the third quarter. All of a sudden, the Bruins trailed by 16, with not only the turnovers, but also the fouls continuing to catch up with them.
Five of the Buffaloes’ first nine points in the second half came from the free throw line, and they were shooting over 50% from the field to that point as well.
A return to efficient ball movement got UCLA back on the board, with Osborne finding Anstey for a layup and Horvat kicking out to Osborne for a 3 to make it an 11-point contest. Four minutes later, Osborne knocked down another long ball, but that once again only got it back to an 11-point gap after Colorado hit three layups in a row.
That’s when Osborne went down with her ankle injury, and although she returned, the guard was unable to make
The Bruins entered the fourth quarter down by 15, and they never closed it to single digits for the rest of the night. Thomas didn’t attempt a shot in the third quarter and shot just 1-of-4 in the fourth.
Onu hit a couple of layups in the final minute to join Osborne and Thomas in double figures. Anstey had six points, but no other Bruin had more than three.
After dominating in the frontcourt to start the night, UCLA wound up getting outscored 42-26 in the paint, in addition to a 15-7 disadvantage in made free throws. In those two areas alone, the Bruins allowed 57 points, which was all the Buffaloes needed to beat them handily.
UCLA will get back to action on Sunday against Utah for its home final and senior night. The game won’t only be a chance for the team to start its final push in the Pac-12 standings, but it will also be a tell on which players are set to leave the program in the offseason.
The Bruins will need to win out in order to secure a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
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