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Bruins Take on UConn in Marquee Matchup

Dec 9, 2021
Jaelynn Penn scored 20 points in UCLA's recent win over San José State (photo by Caren Nicdao).

UCLA (5-2, 0-0) vs. No 3 UConn (5-2, 0-0)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 11
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT
Location: Prudential Center (Newark, N.J.)
Watch: ABC (Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo)
Listen: (Dave Marcus)

UConn enters Saturday's matchup at 5-2 on the year and the No. 3 team in the country on the most recent Associated Press poll. The Huskies boast three victories against ranked teams, including a 73-54 win over then-No. 24 Notre Dame on Dec. 5. The victory over the Fighting Irish came at the cost of superstar guard Paige Bueckers, who suffered a non-contact injury and will miss extended time this season. UConn is coming off a 57-44 loss to Georgia Tech this past Thursday, a defeat that snapped a 240-game winning streak against unranked opponents. The Huskies will likely turn to veteran guard Christyn Williams to replace Bueckers' scoring production, while Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards also figure to play more prominent roles. UConn will also be without star freshman Azzi Fudd, who is out with a right foot injury. 

The UCLA-UConn matchup will be nationally televised on ABC. It is the first regular season collegiate women's basketball game to ever air on the network. The Bruins' matchup against Stanford later this season (Feb. 3) will also be nationally televised, airing on ESPN. The Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game and games throughout the NCAA Tournament are also slated to air on the ESPN family of networks.

This is the seventh all-time matchup between UCLA and UConn, with the Huskies holding a 6-0 advantage in the series. The teams most recently squared off in the Sweet 16 on March 29, 2019 with the Bruins suffering a narrow, 69-61 defeat. Kennedy Burke notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Japreece Dean scored a team-high 16 points in the effort. The 2019 game was a rematch of the 2017 Sweet 16, which also saw the Huskies emerge victorious in the first-ever postseason matchup between the teams.

RECAP -- UCLA vs. San José State (Dec. 5)
• The Bruins defeated the Spartans, 112-33. It was the second-most points the Bruins have scored in a game during Coach Close's 11-year tenure (129 vs. San José State on Nov. 10, 2017).
• UCLA held the Spartans scoreless in the second quarter.
• Natalie Chou (31 pts) and IImar'I Thomas (32 pts) each put up 30+ point performances. It was only the third time in Pac-12 history since at least 1999-00 that two players from the same team scored at least 30 points in a single game.
• The Bruins assisted on 31 of 43 made baskets, the most assists in a game by UCLA since at least 1999-00.

PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK -- Natalie Chou
Natalie Chou was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday, Dec. 6. Chou had a career game in the Bruins' 112-33 victory over San José State, putting up a career-high 31 points as she eclipsed the 30-point barrier for the first time in her career. She tied a career high with 11 made field goals, including a career-best six three pointers. She dazzled with 11 assists, surpassing her previous best of seven in a single game, set back in 2018. Chou was also strong on the defensive end, recording two steals and two blocks.

• A win would mark the first-ever victory for the Bruins over the Huskies in the seventh meeting between the teams.
• A win would improve the Bruins to 4-9 against top-3 teams across Coach Close's tenure.
• The last time the Bruins defeated a top-3 team was the win at No. 2 Oregon (74-69) on Feb. 22, 2019.
• The Bruins are the only team in the Pac-12 with two players among the league's top five scorers (2. Thomas, 3. Osborne).
• The Bruins are the only team in the Pac-12 with three players among the league's top 10 scorers (2. Thomas, 3. Osborne, 10. Chou).
• The Bruins lead the Pac-12 in three-point percentage (.398) and free throw percentage (788).
• IImar'I Thomas' 32-point outing against San Jose State (Dec. 5) was her seventh-career 30+ point performance.
• IImar'I Thomas eclipsed the 2,000-career-point milestone in the Bruins' game over South Dakota State (Nov. 27).
• Charisma Osborne has scored in double figures in each of her last nine games dating back to last season.
• Natalie Chou put up 31 points against San Jose State (Dec. 5) and is averaging 16.2 points per game over her last five games.
• Jaelynn Penn has scored at least 15 points in four of her last five games, including a season-high 20 against San Jose State (Dec. 5).
• Jaelynn Penn has yet to miss from the free throw line this year (15-for-15).

• Charisma Osborne recorded her seventh-career double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds over St. John's (Nov. 28).
• Dominique Onu has more than tripled her scoring output from 2.3 points per game (2020-21) to 7.0 points per game (2021-22).
• Dominique Onu scored a career-high 10 points in the team's win over St. John's, good for her first-career 10+ point performance (Nov. 28).
• Kayla Owens grabbed nine rebounds against San Jose State and has secured at least five boards in five of seven games this season.
• IImar'I Thomas has scored at least 18 points in six of seven games this season, including three games with at least 20 points.
• Jaelynn Penn is leading the Bruins in rebounding (6.1 rpg) and has grabbed at least five boards in six of seven games this season.
• Kayla Owens has started all seven games for the Bruins after not making a single start in her previous three seasons with the team.

• Charisma Osborne has made 129 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 scored 879 points in her career, just 21 away from 900.
• Charisma Osborne has grabbed 91 steals across her career, just nine away from 100.
• Natalie Chou has knocked down 143 three-pointers in her career, just seven away from 150.
• Chantel Horvat has logged 1,475 minutes across her career, just 25 away from 1,500.
• Jaelynn Penn has scored 1,410 points across her career, just 90 away from 1,500.
• Kayla Owens has scored 95 points across her career, just five away from 100.
• Dominique Onu has scored 85 points across her career, just 15 away from 100.

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:
SIGNEEES: #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.

PROLIFIC CAREER -- IImar'I Thomas at Cincinnati
Graduate forward IImar'I Thomas currently ranks second in the Pac-12 with 19.1 points per game and is coming off a 32-point outing for the Bruins against San Jose State. Thomas transferred to UCLA this past offseason following a sensational four-year career with Cincinnati. She ranks third all-time in scoring with 1,925 points and is the only player in program history to record 1,900+ points and 800+ rebounds. She was the 2021 AAC Player of the Year after averaging 23.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest. Thomas scored in double figures 89 times as a Bearcat and recorded 37 games with at least 20 points. She was a three-time First Team All-AAC selection and the 2018 AAC Freshman of the Year.

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.

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.

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. Texas Southern (Dec. 16)
The Bruins are back in action at Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom for a matchup against Texas Southern on Thursday, Dec. 16. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00pm PT with UCLA handling an in-house live stream to broadcast the action. Dave Marcus is on the radio call for It's the first-ever matchup between the Bruins and Tigers.