Women's Basketball Posts 61-48 Victory over UC Irvine in WNIT
LOS ANGELES – The UCLA women's basketball team started the postseason off with a win on Friday evening, downing visiting UC Irvine, 61-48 in the first round of the WNIT at Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom. With the victory, the Bruins (15-12) advance to Sunday's second round where they will host Air Force at 2:00 p.m. The Falcons (19-13) were 64-60 winners over San Francisco on Thursday.
Bruin senior Natalie Chou was the story of the game, as she led all scorers with 19 points. She finished 6 for 9 overall, with 15 of those points coming from behind the arc where she was 5 for 7. The only other player in double figures on the night for UCLA was IImar'I Thomas, who had 13 points on 4 of 8 shooting. She was a perfect 5 for 5 on free throws, also adding a game-high 12 rebounds.
Trailing 18-14 early in the second quarter, UCLA finally found its rhythm, as the Bruins would go on a 14-0 run to take a 28-18 lead. That run, which started with a Chou three-pointer with eight minutes left in the half, would put the Bruins in the lead for the rest of the game. A pair of layups from Thomas, as well as baskets from Angela Dugalić and Jaelynn Penn, were included in the run.
Chou continued her hot hand in the third quarter, going 2 for 2 from behind the arc, also leading the Bruins in scoring with eight points. Junior guard Charisma Osborne, who was held scoreless in the first 20 minutes of action, managed to get on the scoreboard on a layup with four minutes to play. She also added four assists in the quarter. UCLA's leading scorer heading into the game at 16.4 ppg, Osborne finished with the game with six points on 3 of 12 shooting.
With time running out and UC Irvine trailing 46-37, Anteater guard Kayla Williams nailed a three-pointer as time expired to bring UC Irvine within 10 points to end the third quarter. Williams would actually add another three-pointer to start the fourth, cutting the lead to 46-43, however that was as close as UC Irvine would get, as UCLA outscored the Anteaters 15-8 in the final 10 minutes.
"We knew that UC Irvine was a very good team," said The Michael Price Family UCLA Women's Head Coach Cori Close. "Obviously this has been such an up-and-down ride for our team this year. We are really playing for our seniors and for the momentum that we can build going into next year. For us to be able to play at home really means a lot to us. It's going to play dividends as we advance in the tournament. Air Force is such a good defensive team. We have to be ready to play and will need to play much better than we did today. We are excited to have the chance to compete again."