Los Angeles – The Indiana Hoosiers outlasted the UCLA Bruins Sunday, 67-65, in a fierce duel down the stretch in which the hosts tried to close out after falling behind earlier.
Jaelynn Penn scored 17 points for the Hoosiers, including a pivotal three-point shot with 29 seconds left. Ali Patberg also had 17 points, while Bendu Yeaney added 13.
The Bruins led 20-17 after one quarter, but Indiana went on a 20-10 run in the second period and kept their opponents from scoring for the last 5:56. UCLA picked it up in the third frame, cutting the Hoosier lead to 51-48 heading into the final 10 minutes.
Thanks to a Japreece Dean jump shot, the Bruins regained the lead for the first time since the opening quarter, with 7:25 left. With the score knotted at 62, Michaela Onyenwere scored on an offensive rebound and putback to give her team the lead. But a Patberg assist to Penn in the left corner sent the ball through the net to put the visitors up, 65-64. Free throws gave the win to the Hoosiers, who moved to 7-0 on the season.
Dean led UCLA with 16 points, while Kennedy Burke scored 15 and Onyenwere, 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Indiana coach Teri Moren praised the grittiness of her team.
“We felt like we had to be the tougher team coming into the game,” she said. “We felt like, if we weren’t going to win the boards, we could win everything else. And that’s heart and determination.”
Last year’s WNIT champions, Indiana has a new lineup this year after the departure of two of the program’s greats in Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill. But Moren said that the young team is learning how to play together quickly.
“When you lose two kids like Amanda and Tyra, it’s a challenge,” she said. “These kids are trying to figure out who’s going to score and who’s going to rebound. It’s great to watch them develop, as a new group, an identity.”
“They’re a blast to coach just because they’re all about each other. And the relationship part, whether it’s with each other or with our staff, they’ve figured it out. We’ve got a ways to go, but I love who they are as people and how they approach everything.”
The loss was the fourth straight for the Bruins – the first time they’ve lost as many consecutive match ups since the 2014-2015 season. The dropped a game to Kentucky over Thanksgiving weekend by one point in overtime, and the next day they lost by four points to South Florida.
UCLA came into the year off an Elite Eight appearance, which followed back-to-back Sweet 16 trips. Like the Hoosiers, they also graduated two program greats last spring, in Jordin Canada and Monique Billings. But the Bruins have struggled to find on-court cohesion with a new starting five.
Burke and Dean were in tears at the post-game press conference.
“It’s really upsetting because we talk all the time about protecting our home court,” Burke said. “But they wanted it more, so we have to get better in practice, and it starts with us. Because in order to get better, we have to be consistent.”
“It starts with our defense, which creates good offense, and in having more pride on defense. It’s also knowing defense and personnel from the other team.”
UCLA coach Cori Close characterized Indiana as the tougher team, and said the damage was done with the visitor’s big second quarter run, similar to situations in the team’s other losses.
“They did a really good job executing in key situations,” Close said. “We’ve got to keep learning…..obviously right now we’re not good enough in some key areas. (Change) starts with me.”
“Both teams were physically tired down the stretch, and it was the team that remained more focused that won. We also lost track of our game plan…..how do we get to that point where we not only know our jobs, but do our jobs?”
Moren said her team is learning from every game they play.
“We’re finding ways to finish out games and we’re keeping the foot on the pedal when we get a lead,” she said. “That’s sometimes hard for kids to remain ruthless. A lot of it is about teaching how the game unfolds. No lead is ever safe.”
“We’re deeper than we were a year ago.”
The Hoosiers host Butler Wednesday, while the Bruins open their doors Friday to Fresno State.