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Bruins Take on South Dakota State as Gulf Coast Showcase Continues

Nov 26, 2021
Kayla Owens (photo by Carlie Heuple)

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No. 19 UCLA (3-1, 0-0) vs. South Dakota State (2-4, 0-0)
Date: Friday, Nov. 26
Time: 11:00 a.m. ET / 8:00 a.m. PT
Location: Estero, Fla. (Hertz Arena)
Watch: FloHoops (paid subscription)
Listen: (Dave Marcus)

THE MATCHUP: No. 19 UCLA vs. South Dakota State
The Bruins are back in action at the Gulf Coast Showcase with a matchup against South Dakota State. Tip-off is scheduled for 11:00am ET/8:00am PT from Hertz Arena in Estero, Fla. All games in the Gulf Coast Showcase are broadcast on FloHoops.

South Dakota State enters Saturday's matchup with an overall record of 2-4 to start the year. The Jackrabbits lost their first-round game in the tournament to UMass, falling by a final score of 83-61. Impressively, 11 Jackrabbits scored in the game, but just one, Paige Meyer, put up double figures (10 pts). SDSU has now recorded consecutive losses with a previous defeat to Creighton (Nov. 18). Meyer (12.0 ppg) and Tylee Irvin (11.0 ppg) lead the team in scoring.

• The Bruins are the only team in the Pac-12 with two players among the league's top five scorers (2. Osborne, 4. Thomas).
• The Bruins are one of only three teams in the Pac-12 (Oregon, USC) with four players averaging double-digit scoring totals (Osborne 21.3, Thomas 16.3, Penn 13.5, Chou 11.3).
• With 16 and 12 points, respectively, in the team's game against Kent State, Jaelynn Penn and Natalie Chou have each scored in double figures in back-to-back games.
• IImar'I Thomas recorded her 40th-career 20+ point game with 21 points against CSUN (Nov. 18).
• The Bruins lead the Pac-12 and are sixth in the nation in free throw percentage (.850). UCLA shot 12-for-14 from the line in its most game against Kent State (Nov. 26).
• After recording six assists in a game just once in her four-year career at Indiana, Jaelynn Penn dished out a career-high seven assists in the Bruins' win over CSUN (Nov. 18) and then seven more against Virginia (Nov. 21).
• Charisma Osborne is leading the Pac-12 in minutes played per game (37.0).
• Dominique Onu is leading the Pac-12 in 3PT field goal percentage at 80.0 percent (4-for-5).
• The Bruins have played in the last five NCAA Tournaments (four Sweet 16, one Elite 8 appearance).

The Bruins opened the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament with a loss to Kent State, falling to the Golden Flashes by a final score of 75-69. Charisma Osborne led the Bruins with 21 points, her second 20+ point outing of the year. Jaelynn Penn and Natalie Chou put up 16 and 12 points, respectively, good for the second-straight game the pair scored in double figures. Five Kent State players scored in double figures, led by a 20-point outing from Lindsey Thall, and the Golden Flashes knocked down nine three-pointers in the contest.

UCLA and South Dakota State share a head coaching connection. UCLA Head Coach Cori Close and South Dakota State Head Coach Aaron Johnston coached together for Team USA at the U19 World Cup this past summer in Debrecen, Hungary. Close was the head coach of the team and Johnston served as an assistant. The pair helped lead Team USA to a world title after defeating Australia, 70-52 in the title game. Close also served as an assistant on the U19 staff in 2019, helping lead the Americans to a gold medal.

The Bruins have signed ESPN's No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for the high school class of 2022. It's the second No. 1-ranked class for the Bruins, as the 2014 recruiting haul included Lajahna Dummer and Kelli Hayes, as well as future WNBA pros Jordin Canada and Monique Billings. UCLA is now the only Pac-12 school since 2010 to sign multiple No. 1 classes and one of just four schools in the country to accomplish the feat since 2010. It should be noted that Kiki Rice is the highest-ranked recruit in UCLA WBB history and Gabriela Jaquez is the sister of UCLA MBB star Jaime Jaquez Jr. The current class features: #2-ranked Kiki Rice (5-11 point guard), #19-ranked Gabriela Jaquez (6-0 forward), #22-ranked Londynn Jones (5-5 point guard), #49-ranked Christeen Iwuala (6-3 forward), and German standout Lina Sontag.

• IImar'I Thomas has scored 1,990 points in her career, just 10 away from 2,000.
• Gina Conti has recorded 494 assists in her career, just six away from 500.
• Charisma Osborne has made 120 three-pointers in her career. She is sixth on UCLA's all-time list for three-pointers made. Japreece Dean ('19) is fifth with 134.
• Charisma Osborne has dished out 142 assists in her career, just 11 away from 150.
• IImar'I Thomas has recorded 884 rebounds in her career, just 16 away from 900.
• Natalie Chou has scored 486 points across her UCLA career, just 14 away from 500.
• Natalie Chou has dished out 198 assists in her career, just two away from 200.

WELCOME (BACK) TO WESTWOOD -- Transfers and Returners
The Bruins notably have eight players who did not suit up for the program a season ago. Coach Close reloaded with four transfers to fill out the roster: Gina Conti (point guard, Wake Forest), Angela Dugalic (forward, Oregon), Jaelynn Penn (guard, Indiana), and IImar'I Thomas (forward, Cincinnati). UCLA fans can enjoy the returns of Brynn Masikewich, Kayla Owens, and Kiara Jefferson, none of whom were with the program last season for various reasons. Redshirt freshman Izzy Anstey is also with the team for the first time, as the Australia native was unable to travel to the United States last year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

2021 WNBA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- Michaela Onyenwere
After an historic Bruin career that saw her graduate as the program's fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,888 points, Michaela Onyenwere became the first UCLA WBB alumna to earn the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award. She was also the first Bruin basketball player since Jamaal Wilkes in 1975 to be named Rookie of the Year. She started 29 of 32 games for New York and went on to lead all rookies in scoring with 8.6 points per game. She notched nine double-digit scoring performances, including a 29-point outing against the Atlanta Dream on May 29. Onyenwere was third among rookies with 2.9 rebounds per contest and secured a career-high 10 boards against the Minnesota Lynx on Aug. 31.  New York earned the eighth seed in WNBA Playoffs and fell in a heartbreaking 83-82 loss to the Phoenix Mercury. It was the first playoff appearance for New York since 2017.

UCLA maintained a strong presence in the WNBA this past season, as the Bruins had representation on the court, the sideline, and the front office across various organizations.
• Michaela Onyenwere earned Rookie of the Year honors with the New York Liberty, becoming the first UCLA Women's Basketball alumna to earn the honor. She averaged 8.6 points per game and won each of the league's four Rookie of the Month awards.
• Jordin Canada ('18) finished her fourth season with the Seattle Storm, putting up 5.8 points and 3.0 assists per game. Canada also boasts an apparel deal with Jumpman, as does UCLA Women's Basketball.
• Noelle Quinn ('07) was named Head Coach of the Seattle Storm during the 2021 season and guided the team to the WNBA playoffs.
• Monique Billings ('18) finished her fourth season in the WNBA with the Atlanta Dream. Billings averaged 8.1 points per game and grabbed 6.5 rebounds per contest.
• Kennedy Burke ('19) was traded to the Seattle Storm during the 2021 season and was reunited with former UCLA teammate, Jordin Canada. Burke averaged 2.9 points per game last season.
• Former Bruin sharpshooter Kari Korver ('17) finished her second season as the Director of Operations for the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Bruins have been represented on the following national award watch lists and preseason teams:
Charisma Osborne: Preseason All-Pac-12 team, Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year Award Top 20 Watch List, Wooden Award watch list, Wade Watch
Gina Conti: Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year Award Top 20 Watch List, All-Pac-12 team honorable mention
Natalie Chou: Preseason All-Pac-12 team honorable mention

UP NEXT: UCLA vs. TBD (Sunday, Nov. 28)
The Bruins' next matchup of the Gulf Coast Showcase will be against a TBD opponent on Sunday, Nov. 28.  All games in the Gulf Coast Showcase will be broadcast on FloHoops.