UCLA advances to the Sweet 16 after defeating Creighton, 67-63

Jordan Kelly - The Sporting Tribune
UCLA wins over Creighton, after erasing a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to rally a comeback win, 67-63.

LOS ANGELES– Both UCLA and Creighton won their first-round games in the 2024 NCAA Tournament. As they both face each other on Monday night with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16. Lauren Betts, who did not play against California Baptist, made her return to the court and dominated the night after her 20-point performance against Creighton.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Lauren Betts dominated the Bluejays

On Saturday, UCLA won by 29 points even without Betts. However, when she returned, she quickly made an impact by scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds in the first quarter alone. Despite Betts’ dominance, Creighton’s Lauren Jensen also scored 11 points in the first quarter. Although Betts’ return makes UCLA a formidable team, there are still times when they can be challenged.

Early on in the game, Creighton started to get some defensive stops while Jensen continued to hit shots, just like her teammate Emma Ronsiek who hit a jumper to put Creighton ahead 28-19 with 6:58 left in the first half. In an attempt to halt Creighton’s offense, UCLA head coach Cori Close called for a timeout. The Bluejays were double teaming Betts down low which caused the Bruins to change their strategy. In the first half, UCLA struggled to get stops on defense while Creighton kept crashing the boards and picking up extra possessions.

During the game, Gabriela Jaquez scored two consecutive layups which reduced the lead to a single-digits. UCLA had to find ways to stop Jensen on offense, but Ronsiek added 12 points in the first half. Jensen played for the whole 20 minutes, and Morgan Maly contributed nine points. Kiki Rice from UCLA was able to score seven points but only made 2 of 5 field goals. The local product from Riverside, Londynn Jones couldn’t score any points as she went 0 for 4 from the field in the first half. Jaquez had a total of four points, and Camryn Brown scored four points as well by making 2 out of 3 field goals.

During the game, UCLA scored 24 points in the paint and managed to get 10 second chance points and 10 points off the bench. Unfortunately, the Bruins had a hard time shooting beyond the arc, only making 2 of their 10 attempts. Creighton’s head coach, Jim Flanery, figured out a way to prevent the Bruins from relying on Betts and instead forced her teammates to take more shots.

A powerful second half for the Bruins

The third quarter was all about the Bruins defense as the crowd was going wild in attempt to wake up UCLA as they trailed by double digits. Rice was determined to get her way as she was not stopped by the Bluejays offense. The Bruins found a way to crawl back into the game as they took the lead late in the third quarter. UCLA led 54-51 with 1:42 to go after Rice made both of her free throws. Moments later, she hit a turn around jumper to give UCLA as 56-53 later. No way in stopping Rice from getting to the Sweet 16.

“Pass me the f***** ball.” Betts screamed as she was upset after getting called for an offensive foul early in the third quarter. She kept battling in the paint as she was not getting the ball and showed frustration.

Creighton and UCLA were tied at 56 points at the end of the third quarter. Once the Bruins found a way to get Betts more involved and spaced the floor, this allowed Betts to go to work on the post. Angela Dugalic hit a three-pointer off a double team on Betts, giving UCLA a 61-56 lead with 8:13 to go in the fourth quarter. Rice continued to take over in the second half, but Creighton was not giving up so quickly. Maly has a nice lefty stroke, and she was fouled going to the basket, cutting the lead to 65-60 with just under four minutes left.

Jaquez had two opportunities to score three-pointers in the fourth quarter that could have helped her team get back in the game. Despite Jensen’s impressive 17-point performance in the first half, UCLA managed to hold her to only three points in the second half. One of the highlights of the game was Mogensen’s three-pointer, which cut Creighton’s lead to 65-63 with 1:37 left. Coach Close called a timeout after Creighton scored five consecutive points. Osborne’s jumper gave UCLA a four-point lead with less than a minute remaining.

During the game, Rice stepped up and scored 17 of her 24 points in the second half while cooking up a feast on the court. She shot 7 of 13 from the field and was perfect from the free throw line, going 8 for 8. Betts performed well too, finishing the night with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 9 of 15 shooting from the field. UCLA’s defense played a crucial role in the fourth quarter, limiting Creighton to just 7 points.

In the closing moments of the game, Osborne managed to secure the defensive rebound from Mogensen’s missed shot. However, the referees decided to stop the game and review the play, as it appeared that Osborne had used her elbows excessively. Nevertheless, they did not call a flagrant and the game ended at that point. With a final score of 67-63, UCLA has advanced to the Sweet 16 after defeating Creighton.

Sweet 16 bound for UCLA

Rice and Betts led the night for UCLA as they now look forward to the next round. She went off for 17 in the second half as there was nothing that can stop her on the court. She was definitely in her bag as it allowed the Bruins to get back on top after trailing by double digits. Rice talked to The Sporting Tribune after the game on her amazing performance.

“You know, this time of the year, you lose and you’re out so I didn’t want that.” said Rice postgame.

Rice mentioned how she didn’t want to end her sophomore year like this at Pauley Pavillion. Another player who was playing with so much energy was Jaquez, as she ended with 8-points and 11 rebounds in the win over Creighton.

“Gab’s a fantastic player, she does whatever it takes for this team to win.” said Rice.

Betts talked after the game about how Creighton was playing defense on her and acknowledge their effort as they kept doubling her every moment she touched the ball after the first quarter. Coach Close made some adjustments to spread the floor as they counter their defensive strategies.

“At some point they’re not gonna let me play one on one, they saw how that was going.” said Betts during her postgame press conference.

UCLA is gearing up to face off against No. 3 LSU in the Sweet 16 on Saturday in Albany, NY. The winner of this game will advance to the Elite Eight. The Bruins are hoping to carry the momentum from their win into this next round. Rice emphasized the importance of watching game footage from Monday’s match to prepare for the upcoming game. Betts stated that they must keep moving forward and focus on their next matchup, as they don’t have much time to dwell on each win.