Los Angeles – When the final buzzer sounded, both UCLA and Arizona State players were still fighting for the rebound underneath the visitor’s basket.
So intense was the battle that it seemed like everyone on the court, and in the arena, had lost track of time during the 21.7 seconds that ended with the No. 10 Bruins escaping the Sun Devils, 68-66.
There was a pause on the floor as players absorbed that the game was over. The crowd, which had been screaming wildly throughout the match up, was suddenly silent in a collective exhale.
The win meant that UCLA was 13-0 and had broken a program record for best season start. It meant that they survived a fourth-quarter ASU attack in which they were out-rebounded, 19-3, including four offensive rebounds in the final seconds that they couldn’t convert into a bucket.
“Panic,” Bruin coach Cori Close said of her reaction to the last stanza of the game. “They person-handled us in the last four minutes. They just absolutely wanted rebounds more than we did.”
Japreece Dean led UCLA with 23 points, which included five three-point shots. Lindsey Corsaro scored 12 points, Charisma Osborne, 10, and Lauryn Miller grabbed 10 rebounds. Top scorer Michaela Onyenwere scored just nine points.
The Bruins got off to a quick 13-2 start, but the Sun Devils narrowed that margin to five points by the end of the first quarter. In the second, they out-shot the hosts to stay within four points at the break.
In the third frame ASU emerged with both offensive and defensive intensity, as Robbi Ryan scored eight and Ja’Tavia Tapley five to help tie the score at 56 going into the final 10 minutes.
The fourth quarter was all Sun Devils on the boards, despite their relatively low shooting percentage. But ultimately it was their failure to convert as time expired that cost them the game.
Ryan finished with 17 points and Tapley 10 for the visitors.
Close said her team struggled when they lost focus.
“(Assistant) coach Tasha (Brown) said it best in the locker room, that we lost track of who we were and we lost track of how we were built,” Close said. “In this Pac-12 schedule, we’ve got to learn quickly.”
ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said her number one message for her team at halftime was to step up their rebounding percentage.
“You control the boards, you control the game,” she said. “I thought we adjusted pretty well.”
She said she liked the Sun Devils’ toughness, and that they gave themselves a chance to win the game. But ultimately, the youth and inexperience of the roster was a factor.
“We needed to make more plays and execute better down the stretch,” Turner Thorne said. “We had our opportunities, but we didn’t execute……it was fun and frustrating at the same time.”
UCLA takes on No. 18 Arizona Sunday in a battle of unbeaten teams, as there are only six undefeated squads left in Division I.
Close said Saturday would be a heavy day of preparation.
“We need to attack the paint in more ways than just Japreece. We didn’t set screens well enough to create an offensive flow,” she said. “In this conference, you have to be thinking about personnel and tendencies (of opposing players), and stay locked in.
Sunday’s game tips at noon.