Press-Telegram (Long Beach)
Inside: UCLA and Stanford face off in rubber match in women’s Pac-12 Tournament final today.
The UCLA women’s basketball team is headed to the Pac-12 Conference Tournament final, where it will face top-seeded Stanford.
After two gritty tournament games against Washington and Arizona, the third-seeded Bruins were dedicating most of Saturday to physical recovery and mental preparation before facing the Cardinal (24-2) today for the third time this season.
“We’ve played Stanford twice and I think it’s going to be more on the coaches and using film really wisely and having our game plan really succinct,” said UCLA coach Cori Close after the quarterfinal win over Arizona. “But it will really be about recovery and mentality more than anything else.”
The Bruins (16-4) lost to Stanford, 61-49, in mid-December, then picked up a 70-66 win in a mid-January rematch.
In the most recent game, Charisma Osborne scored 24 points and Michaela Onyenwere recorded a double-double.
“I think we’ve proven that we are a team to beat,” Onyenwere said. “Obviously, Stanford is a great team. They’ve been having a great year. But we were able to get a win up in Santa Cruz against them and so I think that does give us confidence a little bit. But every game is a new game.”
Although Onyenwere and Osborne have been leaders on the stat sheets, their teammates have been making an impact.
Natalie Chou and Emily Bessoir both had double-digit scoring performances in UCLA’s last game against Stanford and were contributors in the quarterfinal game against Arizona in terms of points, rebounds and hustle.
“I really talk a lot about passion plays in our program and she is the epitome of what that means,” Onyenwere said of Chou. “And so for her to get those little deflections, little steals, those rebounds that you have to reach a little bit farther for is just so huge for her.”
Lauryn Miller has also drawn praise from her coach and teammates for her intangible contributions.
“I really do think it starts with Lauryn,” Close said. “She plays such a unique, pivotal role. She’s one of our highest basketball IQ players. The way that she plays her role with such steadiness and versatility and commitment to the team first, that sets the tone for other people coming in.”