UCLA dominates California Baptist, 84-55, to advance to the second round

Jordon Kelly - The Sporting Tribune
The UCLA Bruins defeated the Lancers, 84-55. Kiki Rice led the team with 20 points in their first-round victory.

LOS ANGELES– The UCLA Lady Bruins are beginning their journey towards the National Championship with a game against California Baptist University at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins haven’t played a match since their loss to the USC Trojans on March 8th in double overtime. UCLA had a fantastic home record of 14-1 throughout the season and were expected to win with a 27.5 point spread over the Lancers.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Bruins couldn’t get going early

UCLA sophomore player Kiki Rice showcased her impressive skills by hitting shots from anywhere on the court. Rice had an average of 12.6 points per game during the season and scored 13 points in the first half of the game. Former UCLA Bruin Jaime Jaquez, who is now a member of the Miami Heat, his sister Gabriela Jaquez is trying to continue the family legacy. Jaquez scored seven points in the first half and was perfect from the field.

During the first half of the game, the Lady Bruins, led by their hustle, dominated the court, taking a 12-point lead. On the other hand, the Lancers had a hard time hitting a three-pointer, making only one out of eight attempts from beyond the arc. Cori Close, the coach of the UCLA , motivated her players to hustle for extra possessions, resulting in eight second chance points compared to CBU’s zero. The Bruins scored 17 points in both the first and second quarters. Interestingly, none of the UCLA bench players scored in the first half.

Cal Baptist managed to reduce the lead to four points, causing Close to call a timeout. During the break, she appeared to be frustrated. However, the Bruins emerged from the timeout with renewed vigor, taking control of the game and ending the first half with a 34-22 lead. Angela Dugalic played a key role in this, scoring six points and grabbing six rebounds while dominating the paint. As a result, the Lancers struggled to advance into the lane. Kinsley Barrington was the leading scorer for the Lancers in the first half, contributing five points despite only playing for 11 minutes. Anaiyah Tu’ua took a brief 39-second rest during the first half, but still managed to score five points and grab six rebounds, despite only making one of her four shots from the field.

The mighty Bruins got mightier in the 2nd half

UCLA’s Londynn Jones and Charisma Osborne missed 12 out of their 14 attempts at the basket in the first half. However, Osborne did manage to grab nine rebounds. At the start of the third quarter, Jaquez secured an offensive rebound which led to a put-back as she was fouled, causing the UCLA crowd to go wild with excitement. Jaquez scored her free throw, putting her team ahead by 47-30. Osborne followed up on the next possession with a nice 15-foot jump shot, and from there on, they never looked back.

California Baptist team struggled to find their rhythm, trailing 57-38 at the end of the third quarter. Their poor performance from beyond the arc, shooting only 1 of 14, was due to the excellent defense played by UCLA. The Bruins’ defense did a remarkable job of closing out on shooters and making them take difficult shots. While the Lancers struggled, Jaquez had a standout performance in the third quarter, scoring eight points and making her mark in the tournament. Osborne also had a terrific game as she went on a scoring run, which helped her team take the a 73-53 lead.

Overall, Osborne had an impressive performance, almost achieving a triple-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists. UCLA was able to secure a win against the Lancers in the first round of March Madness thanks to the great efforts of their team.

During the fourth quarter of the game, there was a crucial moment with only two minutes left on the clock. Jaquez was fouled as she made another basket. In addition to her impressive scoring, Jaquez also managed to collect 7 rebounds and 1 assist in the game. After the game, she spoke to The Sporting Tribune in the locker room. Osborne revealed that Jaquez had requested the ball on the post during their halftime meeting, as she felt confident playing in that position.

“I do enjoy posting up a lot, I work on it, it’s not like it’s just random. I knew I had a size advantage.” Jaquez told The Sporting Tribune.

She mentioned that her brother’s work ethic and game style taught her a lot, especially his great footwork on the post. I inquired whether Jaquez received any advice from her brother, Jaime, as she prepared for the tournament.”

“No,” I asked her if he had at least texted her. She replied, “No, he probably had a game to be honest. He has his own games, and it’s hard to watch. He’s been busy.”

During Lauren Betts’ absence, Jaquez filled in for her and played exceptionally well. Coach Close revealed that Jaquez had texted her the night before the game, asking for the playbook, and it showed on the court with a 29-point victory over California Baptist. This demonstrates the student athlete’s dedication to studying and executing plays effectively.

Round two is set for Monday against Creighton

Coach Close is preparing her team for the upcoming game against Creighton after their win on Saturday night. Creighton won their first round game against UNLV 87-73. Coach Close emphasized the importance of playing the entire game the same way her team played in the second half of Saturday’s game. Osborne, who had a slow start on Saturday, is looking forward to the second round matchup on Monday.

“We are so talented and i know that this team can go real far as long we continue to do that things that the coaches are asking us to do.” said Osborne during her postgame conference.

Betts was unavailable to play for UCLA on Saturday. However, she is highly likely to play against Creighton on Monday. Betts is a crucial player for the Bruins, leading her team with an average of 14.7 points per game and 9.0 rebounds throughout the season. It remains to be seen if she will become available for the upcoming game.

“I’m hopeful that we’re gonna get her back by Monday, I don’t know yet forsure but, but we are hopeful that we will have her Monday.” said coach Close postgame.

According to Close, the Creighton team boasts of five seniors who are incredibly motivated to win and display remarkable discipline on the court. After the postgame press conference, she expressed her disappointment towards the lack of support from UCLA fans on Saturday. She explained that due to spring break, not all students were present on campus. Close hopes that more than 9,000 fans will show up to support the team.

“I do have one last thing, We had 9,000 here today. Can we beat that Monday?” said Close.

On Monday, UCLA is scheduled to play against Creighton at 5:30 PM at Pauley Pavilion, and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN2. Creighton, a team that had an impressive record of 26-5 in the season, is expected to give the Bruins a tough competition as they have a road record of 10-2 and are looking to possibly upset the home team on Monday night.