UCLA women’s basketball sweeps South Dakota State, Tennessee

The Bruins found revenge in the first round and an upset in the second round.

Now they are tied to the mastery in Battle 4 Atlantis.

UCLA women’s basketball (5-0) avenged two losses to South Dakota State (3-2) last season with a 72-65 win on Saturday, followed by an 80-63 triumph over No. 11 Tennessee (2nd :3) on Sunday. Now the blue-golds face Marquette for the championship spot on Monday in a matchup moving from FloHoops to ESPN.

Coach Cori Close said those wins came from individual contributions, but it was always about growing as a team.

“We have a saying that our mental coach taught us: ‘Sometimes you, sometimes me, but always us,'” Close said. “Today different people spoke up and different people made contributions. I was just talking to this team about gaining confidence and what habits are you willing to commit to so that we can grow into a special team?”

In the first contest, UCLA overtook the Jackrabbits early with a burst of eight points collected from Redshirt sophomore Emily Bessoir and senior guard Charisma Osborne. Bessoir and Osborne, veterans of the Bruin roster, have competed with the blue and gold for more than half the team.

The first quarter was tight, and UCLA had a four-point lead, but assists from graduate guard Gina Conti and freshman guard Kiki Rice for Osborne allowed the Bruins to end the quarter 25-21.

Conti, who joined UCLA as a graduate student last year but was sidelined with an injury, said the dynamic between the guards helps the team move offensively.

“It was really fun just playing against each other with Kiki (Rice), Charisma (Osborne) and me,” said Conti. “If Kiki gets the exit, okay, cool – I’ll sprint the track. Then we can take a quick break, and then maybe I can get the ball into our post player, who’s the edge runner. … Just creating space and moving the ball also helped the three of us a lot.”

UCLA extended their lead to 44-35 by halftime, the game’s widest lead.

Osborne, UCLA’s current top scorer, continued to lead the Bruins with 28 points and four defensive rebounds, maintaining their versatility at both ends of the court. The Blue and Golds maintained their advantage for the rest of the game, defeating South Dakota State 72-65.

After defeating the Jackrabbits in the first round, the Bruins continued their winning streak, defeating No. 11 Tennessee after falling behind in the first quarter.

Unlike the first round against South Dakota State, where the Bruins conceded six personal fouls in the first frame, the Blue and Golds committed just one in the first quarter. The Bruins also surpassed their previous record of three first-half three-pointers with 10 beyond the arc, outperforming the Volunteers behind the three-point line.

Tennessee was first on the board with four quick points, but Osborne answered from deep – their first of five of 11 three-point attempts throughout the competition. The Bruins didn’t give up the lead for the remainder of the game, eventually setting the program’s single-game record in made-3s with 16 total.

“We talked a lot about running in the transition area and being able to step up and attack,” Osborne said. “Our point guards and just the guards who can get in the paint and find the shooters, we’ve done a really good job with that. Even before the game, Coach Cori said: ‘We have an appointment soon.’ We were finally able to beat our threes.”

The blue and gold remained engaged on the rim, passing Volunteers 41–30. UCLA committed 26 fouls compared to Tennessee’s 16, but the Volunteers were limited to 64.5% of the charity streak on 31 tries.

The Volunteers edged the Bruins 6-2 in the last quarter with just seven minutes to go, but the Bruins’ comfortable lead didn’t falter. Freshman guard Londynn Jones hit the last three of the game from a Conti assist and helped the Blue and Golds defeat Tennessee 80-63 both inside and outside the color.

Close said preparing for the upcoming championship game will be about scouting, but also about your own game and mindset.

“Yes, we had a scouting report for that game and there were some minor changes we had to make against Tennessee. But was the focus really on who we’re going to be?” Close said. “Who are we stepping into? What kind of size will we choose? Will we earn the trust we really want? Tomorrow it might look a bit different stylistically, but the focus will be the same.”

The Bruins will take on Marquette at 9:00 am Monday for a shot at a championship title in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

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