Angel Reese and LSU have advance to the Elite 8 after defeating UCLA, 78-69, in a thriller

LSU advances to Elite 8 with a 78-69 win over UCLA. Despite a double-double from Betts, UCLA couldn't keep up with LSU's dominant 4th quarter.

ALBANY, N.Y.– Two of the top teams in the country, UCLA and LSU, are set to face each other in a Sweet 16 matchup. The Bruins are coming off a big win against Creighton at Pauley Pavilion last Monday, while LSU dominated the Blue Raiders 83-56 last Sunday. Angel Reese and Lauren Betts will also be on the court together once again, having previously played together on Team USA last summer and built a great relationship since then.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

UCLA hanging with the defending champs

The LSU Tigers won 30 games during the regular season, and they are currently riding high after a big win. However, the UCLA Bruins are confident that this will be their year to take home the trophy. Both teams have some intriguing supporting players aside from Betts and Reese. LSU’s Flau’Jae Johnson started off strong from beyond the arc. At first, it seemed as though the Bruins were going to fall behind early, as they missed their first seven three-point attempts. But in the second quarter, Gabriela Jaquez came off the bench and hit the team’s first three-pointer of the game.

During the first half of the game, Johnson was the dominant player and made a fantastic turn around jumper on Kiki Rice, which put her team ahead 23-18 in the middle of the second quarter. However, UCLA’s Rice and Osborne both picked up two quick fouls each, causing some early trouble for coach Cori Close. Betts became very frustrated throughout the first half as her teammates struggled to pass her the ball down low. In the second quarter, there was a moment where Angela Dugalic had the ball at the top and Betts was asking for the ball, but Dugalic ended up shooting an air ball. Close was seen screaming at Dugalic to pass the ball to Lauren. Despite the opponents’ attempts to throw Betts off her rhythm, she still managed to grab 10 rebounds in the first half, but only scored five points.

UCLA attempted only 17 shots from beyond the arc, out of which only 2 were successful. This was a much lower number than their usual average of 22 attempts per game. The LSU team played well in preventing the ball from reaching Betts. On the other hand, the Tigers made 2 of 4 from three. Additionally, they put a lot of pressure on the Bruins, causing them to turn the ball over 10 times in the first half. Lodynn Jones was struggling with her shots and missed all 6 of her attempts from beyond the arc until the last few seconds of the second quarter, where she finally made one, giving her some confidence heading into halftime. Rice had a good game, making 3 out of 8 shots from the field and scoring 6 points, but Charisma Osborne was unable to score any points in the first half.

The combination of Reese and Johnson worked well together, scoring a total of 19 points. As a result, LSU was able to take a 34-27 lead into halftime. UCLA’s combination of guards – Jones, Rice and Osborne – struggled, only managing to score a combined 11 points while turning the ball over 6 times. They shot 5 of 18 from the field.

A nail-biting Sweet 16 second half

In the third quarter, UCLA’s Jones made three consecutive three-pointers, leading her team to a 45-44 lead. The Bruins managed to catch up by getting the necessary defensive stops, after being behind by 10 points. As Jones continued to score, Osborne also joined the three-point party, adding another three-pointer to give UCLA a 48-46 lead. It seems that Coach Close must have had an inspiring conversation with her team during halftime, as they try to take down the defending National Champions.

In the fourth quarter, Rice pulled off an absolutely amazing reverse layup, getting fouled in the process and giving UCLA a 51-48 lead. Rice then drove to the basket once more, drawing a foul from Reese, who had already picked up her fourth foul. Reese was forced to take a seat with 8:16 remaining in the game. Rice then made both of her free throws, securing a 55-52 lead for her team. It seemed to be that UCLA was going to win this game but the refs did get in the way of the action.

During the Sweet 16 match, Betts made an amazing block on Mikaylah Williams in the fourth quarter. Later, she was fouled and made two free throws, but then fouled Reese, which gave her four fouls. Coach Close quickly removed Betts from the game with less than four minutes left to play. At the time of her removal, UCLA had a one-point lead (63-62) and coming out of a timeout, Osborne scored a jumper off a Betts screen, putting her team up 65-62.

Both teams continued to exchange baskets towards the end of the game, but a critical turnover by the Bruins allowed LSU to take the lead. Johnson made a fantastic drive to the basket, putting her team four points ahead. Unfortunately, Rice’s late drive resulted in an offensive foul, causing her to foul out of the game with only 39.3 seconds left. With LSU leading 72-68, there was nothing UCLA could do. Reese also fouled out of the game shortly after, but it was too late for the Bruins to make a comeback. Coach Close called a timeout with only 12.7 seconds remaining, and LSU led 76-69. The Tigers’ experience as the reigning National Champions showed late in the game, as they finished on a 14-2 run, defeating UCLA 78-69.

Johnson’s exceptional performance proved to be the game-changer that led her team to victory and secured their place in the coveted Elite 8. With an impressive 24 points and 12 rebounds, she powered through the opponent’s defense, leaving them stunned and helpless. Her teammate Reese also put up a strong front with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Aneesah Morrow made significant contributions with 17 points, playing for a total of 34 minutes in the game. Jaquez, on the other hand, finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds but struggled with her three-point shots, sinking only one of four. Rice had 13 points and 5 assists, tirelessly working to keep her team in the game, but Betts’ efforts were not enough to secure a win as she played for 38 minutes and scored 14 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, ending up in defeat.

LSU waiting for Iowa as UCLA heads home

UCLA played their final game of the season. It was a crucial match for the Bruins as they had a chance to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2018. However, their hopes were shattered as they lost to LSU in a hard-fought battle. The Bruins struggled from beyond the arc, making only 7 of their 32 attempts, which was a significant factor in their defeat. On the other hand, LSU did not make a single three-pointer in the second half but played smart basketball and took only smart shots. They only attempted five three-pointers throughout the game, which shows their efficiency.

LSU’s coach, Kim Mulkey, had an outstanding week of practice, which paid off in the game. They worked on making UCLA uncomfortable, and it was evident as the Bruins committed 19 turnovers in total. UCLA’s coach, Cori Close, had arguably the best team this season, but unfortunately, they couldn’t make it to the Elite 8. LSU’s smart play and efficient shots sealed the deal for them, and they will advance to the Elite 8. Winner of Iowa and Colorado, will face LSU on Monday night.

In a thrilling game,, leaving UCLA to pack their bags and head home. The game left the Bruins with some unanswered questions about their sophomore players. Some players may choose to enter the WNBA Draft, while others may stay at UCLA, as the team transitions to the Big Ten. Despite the Pac-12 Conferences’ final season, it managed to leave a lasting impression. The Conference of Champions led the way with five teams making it to the Sweet 16, making it clear that the conference will be missed. The Tigers are looking to become the first repeat champion since UConn won its fourth straight in 2016.