Press-Telegram (Long Beach)
UCLA doomed by poor start
Close tears up after Stanford rips Bruins for Pac-12 tourney title
UCLA coach Cori Close pinched her forehead, stared at the black tablecloth and broke down in tears. Her passion at UCLA’s postgame news conference was caused, in part, by what she perceived as a dearth of passion in her team that evening.
Stanford beat the Bruins, 7555, to claim the Pac-12 Conference Tournament title at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
Michaela Onyenwere led the Bruins with a game-high 30 points.
“Really, really proud of her and, definitely, I think she showed out. And we let her down, quite frankly,” Close said as tears flowed. “And I take first responsibility in that. I’m the head coach, the buck stops with me and we let her down.”
The top seed Cardinal (252) found momentum early and used 3-point shooting to get ahead. Stanford shot 50% from long range for 12 points in the first quarter and added a sixpoint scoring run to close out the quarter with a 24-11 lead over the No. 3-seed Bruins (16-5).
Onyenwere scored 13 of UCLA’s 20 points in the opening half as the Cardinal defense continued to limit the Bruins. She pulled up for back-to-back jumpers as the clock reached the three-minute mark, but Stanford headed into the break with a 43-20 lead.
“We didn’t really come out the way that we knew we could,” Onyenwere said. “And so that was just pretty tough, getting into the rhythm of things. But I think the second half we kind of showed what type of fight that we do have.”
Upon returning to the floor, the Bruins began to chip away at Stanford’s advantage by going
on a six-point run, then a five-point spurt.
A deep 3-pointer from Charisma Osborne (11 points, five rebounds), who had just returned to the game after an apparent ankle injury earlier in the quarter, energized the bench as UCLA went on to outscore the Cardinal 20-11 in the period.
“We won the second half. That’s what’s so frustrating, but I think it teaches us what we can become,” Close said. “But time’s running out and bottom line is we’ve got to choose quick. And I think there’s more in them, and hopefully the pain of this is the most powerful teacher.”
The Bruins’ comeback attempt continued with Natalie Chou draining a 3-pointer to start the fourth, but Stanford added 21 points to UCLA’s 15 in the quarter for the win.
Haley Jones posted a double-double for Stanford with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Kiana Williams scored 26 points, followed by Lexie Hull, who had 24 points.
The Selection Show for the NCAA Tournament is scheduled for March 15 at 7 p.m. The first round will begin on March 21.
“When we’re knocked down, we’re not knocked down for too long,” Onyenwere said. “We’re going to go back in the film, find ways to get better because we have a lot of basketball left to play.”