UCLA Defeats Arizona, 58-49, in Pac-12 Semifinal
Las Vegas, Nev. – No. 3 seed UCLA advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game for the sixth time in program history after a hard-fought 58-49 victory over No. 2 seed Arizona in the semifinals.
Michaela Onyenwere led the Bruins (16-4) with 24 points and was the only UCLA player in double-figure scoring. Charisma Osborne contributed seven points and seven rebounds, and Natalie Chou added seven points and six rebounds. Aari McDonald had a team-best 24 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats.
Onyenwere opened the scoring for the Bruins with a baseline jumper, but McDonald and Cate Reese each notched baskets for Arizona to give the Wildcats an early 4-2 lead (7:04). Chou then snagged a steal and scored at the other end, tying the game with 4:30 to play in the frame. With the score tied at six, Shaina Pellington drove strong and finished at the rim to put the Wildcats back in front. Onyenwere answered with a turnaround jumper to even the score at eight after the first 10 minutes.
The Wildcats (16-5) would take a three-point lead after a bucket from Cate Reese, but Dominique Darius answered with a triple from the top of the key to tie the score at 13 (8:38). A bucket from Lauryn Miller gave the Bruins the lead before Onyenwere notched another bucket to make it 17-13, Bruins, at the 6:22 mark. Chou knocked down a jumper from the right elbow to make it 19-14 before Onynewere scored on a breakaway to put the Bruins up seven, forcing an Arizona timeout. The hot streak continued for the Bruins by way of a basket from Bessoir, extending the lead to 23-14 with 1:39 to play in the half. After a pair of free throws from McDonald, Miller knocked down a long two to push the lead back to nine. UCLA would go on to take a 25-17 lead into the break.
Onyenwere led all scorers with 10 points after the first 20 minutes. Chou and Miller added four points apiece for the Bruins. McDonald posted nine points in the first half for Arizona, but shot just 2-for-9 from the field.
Trinity Baptiste opened the third quarter with a three-point play to cut UCLA's lead to 25-20. McDonald then picked up a loose ball in the paint for an easy basket, making it 25-22 and forcing a timeout from The Michael Price Family UCLA Women's Head Basketball Coach Cori Close (9:00). After Reese and Onyenwere exchanged free throws, Lindsey Corsaro canned a triple from the left side, pushing UCLA's lead back to six with 6:27 left in the third quarter. Onyenwere followed with a jumper in the lane before Bessoir connected from short-range, making it 34-24 with 4:29 to play in the third. Pellington stopped the bleeding for Arizona with a bucket inside, but Chou answered at the other end to make it 36-26 (1:52). Onyenwere and McDonald exchanged buckets before the end of the third, making it 38-28 heading into the fourth.
The Bruins led by eight in the fourth quarter before Corsaro cut into the paint and scored with her left hand, putting UCLA ahead 44-34 (7:50). Sam Thomas knocked down a three-pointer for Arizona, but Osborne answered at the other end with a triple of her own (47-37). Reese scored inside to cut the lead to eight before McDonald converted an acrobatic lay-in, plus the harm (47-42, 2:58). Onyenwere halted the run with a pair of free throws, but McDonald answered with a three-pointer to make it 49-45 with under three to play. The Wildcats trimmed the lead to two, 49-47, with 1:16 to play, but UCLA ran off seven straight points, including five from the foul line, to secure the win.
The Bruins are set to square off against Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on Sunday, Mar. 7. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. PT on ESPN2. UCLA will make its first appearance in the Conference title game since 2016, when it lost to Oregon State. The Bruins won their lone Conference Tournament title in their first appearance in 2006.