Bruins Take on Air Force in Second Round of WNIT
UCLA (15-12) vs. Air Force (19-13)
Date: Sunday, Mar. 20, 2022
Time: 2:00 p.m. PT
Location: Los Angeles, Calif. (Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom)
Watch: pac-12.com/live/ucla (Dave Marcus)
SCOUTING REPORT: Air Force
UCLA is set to take on Air Force on Sunday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom. It's the first-ever meeting between the programs. Air Force enters the contest at 19-13 overall and has won three of its last four games, including its most recent 64-60 win over San Francisco in the first round of the WNIT Tournament (Mar. 17). The Falcons' win over the Dons was the first national postseason victory in program history. Riley Snyder and Cierra Winters each contributed 15 poitns in the win. Snyder (15.5 ppg) and Winters (11.5 ppg) are the only players averaging double figures for Air Force this season, but the Falcons boast a balanced scoring attack with six other players averaging at least 4.0 points per contest. This is only the second time Air Force has faced a Pac-12 opponent this season, as the Falcons took a 58-53 defeat to Colorado early in the 2021-22 campaign (Nov. 14).
BRUINS ADVANCE TO SEVENTH-STRAIGHT POSTSEASON
This is the seventh consecutive season UCLA has advanced to postseason play. The Bruins were NCAA Tournament participants in five-straight contested tournaments from 2016-21 (there was no postseason in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the Bruins were projected as a high seed at the time of the cancellation of the season) and the WNIT champion in the program's first and only WNIT appearance in 2015.
WNIT GATEWAY TO SUCCESS
As UCLA saw firsthand in 2015, success in the WNIT has led to NCAA Tournament success in subsequent years. After the Bruins won the 2015 WNIT, they went to four consecutive Sweet Sixteens from 2016-19, including the 2018 Elite Eight.
Other recent WNIT winners include:
2019 - Arizona (2021 NCAA runner-up)
2018 - Indiana (2019 NCAA Second Round; 2021 NCAA Elite Eight)
2017 - Michigan (2018, 2019 NCAA Second Round; 2021 NCAA Sweet Sixteen)
2016 - South Dakota (2019 and 2021 NCAA First Round)
2014 - Rutgers (2015 Second Round)
UCLA - 2015 WNIT CHAMPIONS
UCLA won the WNIT in 2015 in its first and only tournament appearance. The Bruins finished the regular season with a 13-18 record but earned the Pac-12's automatic qualifying spot in the tournament. In the first round, UCLA defeated CSU Bakersfield, 70-54, at home and then beat San Diego on the road, 63–58. The Bruins hosted third round and round of 16 games, taking a 74-60 victory over Northern Colorado and an 82-66 win over Saint Mary's. UCLA continued its winning ways in the semifinals, beating Michigan on the road, 69-65, to advance to the championship game in West Virginia. Freshman point guard Jordin Canada dominated in the championship game, scoring 31 points to lead the Bruins to a 62-60 victory. With the Bruins up by just one with under a minute to play, Canada scored on a layup at the 25-second mark and then sealed the win with a steal and two ensuing free throws with 19 seconds remaining.
JAELYNN PENN - 2018 WNIT CHAMPION
Along with UCLA coaches Cori Close, Shannon LeBeauf and Tony Newnan, graduate guard Jaelynn Penn also has a WNIT Championship to her credit, winning in 2018 as a freshman at Indiana. Penn started for the Hoosiers in the championship game, recording a double-double with 10 points and a team-high 10 rebounds in Indiana's 65-57 victory over Virginia Tech.
GAME RECAP: UCLA vs. UC Irvine (Mar. 18)
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.
NOTES ON THE BRUINS
• UCLA has two players ranked in the Top 5 in scoring in the Pac-12 (No. 3 Charisma Osborne - 16.0 and No. 5 IImar'I Thomas - 15.3). No other school has more than one player in the Top 5.
• UCLA ranks No. 4 in the Pac-12 in turnovers per game (13.2) and in free throw percentage (.780). UCLA had just five turnovers against Oregon in the Pac-12 Quarterfinals and shot 20-for-22 from the foul line against USC In the Pac-12 First Round.
• Thomas has led the Bruins in rebounding in seven of the last 11 games and has recorded three double-doubles across that stretch, including a 13-point, 12-rebound performance in UCLA's win over UC Irvine (Mar. 18).
• Angela Dugalic recorded her first career double-double in the Pac-12 Tournament First Round, grabbing career-highs in points (13) and rebounds (12) in the win over USC. Dugalic's point total matched her previous career-high, set last year against UCLA when she was a member of the Oregon Ducks.
• Chantel Horvat recorded her second consecutive 10-rebound game in the Pac-12 Tournament win over USC.
• UCLA has held its opponent under 70 points in 10 of the last 11 games and is 15-4 this season when doing so this season.
UCLA's 1-2 PUNCH -- Charisma Osborne and IImar'I Thomas
UCLA is the only Pac-12 team with a pair of players among the league's Top 5 scorers, with junior guard Charisma Osborne currently third with 16.0 points per game and graduate transfer forward IImar'I Thomas fifth at 15.5 points per game. Osborne was on the Late Season Top 20 Watch List for the John R. Wooden Award, the Midseason Watch List for the Naismith Trophy and the Top 10 Watch List for the Ann Meyers-Drysdale Award. She has scored in double figures in 21 of the 24 games she has played this season and has seven 20-point games to her credit this year, along with two double-doubles. In the Pac-12, she ranks third in scoring (16.0) and free throw percentage (86.3%) and sixth in three-point field goals made (54). Thomas has impressed in her first season with the Bruins after transferring from Cincinnati, compiling 24 double-digit scoring efforts, including a 32-point performance in UCLA's dominant victory over San Jose State (Dec. 5) and three double-doubles. She ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring (15.5) and leads the Pac-12 with 174 field goals made. Thomas has scored at least 10 points in seven-straight games. Thomas has led UCLA in rebounding in seven of the last 11 contests, and she leads the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds per game with 2.8.
BACK IN ACTION
Two players who started the calendar year on the injured list have returned in the past month to play solid minutes for the Bruins. Forward Angela Dugalic, a transfer from Oregon, made her first Bruin appearance on Feb. 11 at Washington State, playing 16 minutes and grabbing four rebounds. Dugalic scored her first points as a Bruin the following game at Washington, netting two baskets and snagging three rebounds in 14 minutes of action. She had a breakthrough game against USC in the Pac-12 Tournament, recording her first career double-double with career-best numbers of 13 points and 12 rebounds in just 19 minutes of play. In 10 games, Dugalic is averaging 16.8 minutes, 6.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Junior guard Camryn Brown returned on Jan. 30 at Oregon State after her ACL injury suffered at the end of 2020-21 and has played in 13 games, with four starts. Junior forward Brynn Masikewich made her first appearance since 2019-20 during the Bruins' Jan. 26 game against Arizona and also saw action at Oregon State on Jan. 30. Additionally, Jaelynn Penn returned on Feb. 13 from a hand injury that kept her out of seven games and has started the last eight games. She had started the season's first 11 games prior to her injury.
FUTURE BRUIN RICE NAMED GATORADE NATIONAL PLAYER OF YEAR
Incoming freshman Kiki Rice was named the Gatorade Nationa Player of the Year this past Thursday. The signee also took home Gatorade State Player of the Year honors for the District of Columbia. WNBA legend Sue Bird presented Rice with the honor over Zoom. Rice led Sidwell Friends to a perfect 28-0 record this past season, putting up 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. The McDonald's All-American is the No. 2-ranked player and No. 1-ranked point guard in espnW's Class of 2022. She is a two-time gold medalist with USA Basketball and earned District of Columbia Player of the Year honors in both basketball and soccer. She averaged 18.8 points per game at the Nike Girls EYBL last summer.
ELITE RECRUITING CLASS -- Class of 2022
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. Kiki Rice, UCLA's first-ever Naismith Girls Player of the Year, is the highest-ranked recruit in UCLA WBB history. She and Gabriela Jaquez, the sister of UCLA Men's Basketball star Jaime Jaquez Jr., were both named to the McDonald's All-America team. 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.
HISTORIC GAME 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.
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 regained the services 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 U.S. last year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
PROLIFIC CAREER -- IImar'I Thomas at Cincinnati
Graduate forward IImar'I Thomas currently ranks fifth in the Pac-12 with 15.5 points per game and put up her third double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds against UC Irvine in the first round of the WNIT (Mar. 18). She has scored in double figures in 24 of her 27 games this season, including each of the last seven. Thomas transferred to UCLA this past offseason following a sensational four-year career with Cincinnati. She ranked third all-time in scoring there with 1,925 points and is the only player in program history to record 1,900+ points and 800+ rebounds. Thomas was the 2021 AAC Player of the Year after averaging 23.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest. The three-time first-team All-AAC selection and 2018 AAC Freshman of the Year scored in double figures 89 times as a Bearcat and recorded 37 games with at least 20 points.
2021 WNBA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- Michaela Onyenwere
After a 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 ppg 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.
• Kari Korver ('17) finished her second season as Director of Operations for the Los Angeles Sparks.
UCLA alumnae have a strong presence playing professionally overseas. Here is a rundown of the program's current professionals playing in leagues all over the world:
• Kennedy Burke ('19), Rebekah Gardner ('12), Michaela Onyenwere ('21) -- Spar Girona -- Spain
• Monique Billings ('18) -- JCU Townsville -- Australia
• Jordin Canada ('18) -- Uni Gyor Mely-Ut -- Hungary
• Nirra Fields ('16) -- Izmit -- Turkey
• Ally Rosenblum ('20) -- A.S. Ramat Hasharon -- Israel
• Atonye Nyingifa ('14) -- Clarinos -- Spain