It took overtime for the Bruins to pull one out against the Sun Devils in the opening round of the conference tournament.
The Bruins were cruising to victory, having led the entire way, until the last-place Sun Devils came storming back.
All of a sudden, it was coming down to the wire for No. 5 seed UCLA women’s basketball (23-8, 11-7 Pac-12) against No. 12 seed Arizona State (8-20, 1-17) in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The Bruins needed a layup and a block at the buzzer by guard Kiki Rice just to force overtime, where they regained their composure to eventually pull out a 81-70 win in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament.
Still, UCLA blew a 19-point second half lead and allowed a critical 16-2 Arizona State run in the fourth quarter. The Bruins hadn’t trailed all afternoon until the final minutes of regulation, when they were stuck in the middle of a 1-for-17 shooting stretch.
Thanks to Rice’s late heroics, UCLA had an extra five minutes to bounce back and avoid getting knocked out on day one. The Bruins hit all five of their field goal attempts in overtime, and they lived to fight another day.
Outside of the nightmare cold streak in the fourth, UCLA did more than enough to win the game, and the late-game collapse likely won’t loom as large as it could have due to the cushion they had built up.
After a back-and-forth opening few minutes, the Bruins built out a lead with three 3-pointers from forward Emily Bessoir. A 6-0 Sun Devil run as the first quarter wound down got them back into it, but forward Brynn Masikewich got a triple of her own to fall to cut off their momentum.
UCLA took complete control on both ends of the floor in the second frame, not allowing a field goal until the 3:36 mark. In that time, the Bruins went on a 12-3 run that made it a 14-point contest, and the blue and gold led 39-25 at the break.
Midway through the third, UCLA had built that lead out to 19 points, but that’s when Arizona State started chipping away at the deficit.
The Sun Devils ended the third quarter on a 10-2 run, and it didn’t take long for them to get back to dominating the fourth quarter. Guard Tyi Skinner got the lead down to six with a pair of 3-pointers, and her triple with 3:15 left actually put Arizona State up by two.
UCLA’s defense stepped things up from there, not allowing another point for the rest of the period, while Rice got her lefty layup to fall with 1:28 remaining. Guard Londynn Jones’ potential game-winner missed, but Rice’s block with time expiring got the Bruins to overtime.
Arizona State continued to record miss after miss – shooting 0-for-9 in the last three minutes of regulation and 1-for-7 in overtime – while UCLA got some key buckets out of Bessoir and guard Charisma Osborne to seal the victory.
Although Bessoir led the way with 17 points, Osborne added 16 to nab the No. 13 spot on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list, which was previously held by Ann Meyers Drysdale. Rice scored 14 to go along with her eight rebounds and six assists, and Jones also cracked double figures with 12 points of her own.
UCLA got 67 of its 81 points from Bessoir, Osborne, Rice, Jones and guard Gina Conti. That five-player group may have shot just 37.9% from the field, but they combined to go 17-of-18 from the free throw line.
The Bruins bested the Sun Devils in every statistical category by the time time final buzzer sounded, winning the rebounding battle, turnover battle, 3-point battle, free throw battle, points in the paint battle and bench points battle, among others. Those advantages across the board ultimately outweighed the blue and gold’s rough patch late.
UCLA will face Arizona in the quarterfinals on Thursday, giving the Bruins a chance to avenge their loss to the Wildcats back in early February. The rematch will tip off from Michelob ULTRA Arena at 12 p.m., and it will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.