The UCLA women’s basketball team defeated the Tennessee Lady Volunteers today, 89-77, in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in College Park, Maryland.
The Bruins jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first minute of the game and they dominated the Lady Vols for the entire first quarter. UCLA had tripled up Tennessee twice in the quarter, first at 12-4 and later at 24-8, before settling for a 28-14 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Bruins didn’t relinquish the lead in the second quarter, even if the Lady Vols were able to cut the lead to single digits twice at 30-21 and at 38-29. While UCLA was outscored 18-16 in the quarter, the Bruins still took a 12-point lead into the locker room at the break as they led 44-32.
If the mantra of the NCAA basketball tournaments is “survive and advance,” then it’s pretty safe to say that UCLA survived a third quarter that saw Tennessee go on a 20-4 run that tied the game 52-52 with 1:16 left in the quarter. This was the first tie game since 0-0. But, Michaela Onyenwere recaptured the lead for the Bruins and Lajahna Drummer added a free throw to put UCLA up 55-52 with 26 second left. Rennia Davis pulled the Lady Vols back to within one with a layup and just nine seconds left on the clock. Japreece Dean then decided to channel her inner Tyus Edney as she drove the court with time running out and she took off with a shot from behind the three-point line which went in as time ran out. After initially calling it a two-pointer, the officials checked the replay and, indeed, saw that Dean was clearly behind the line and the Bruins were awarded the third point and UCLA led 58-54 after three.
Tennessee started the fourth quarter with five consecutive points. That gave the Lady Vols their first lead of the game, 59-58, with 8:52 to go and it wasn’t looking good for UCLA. Over the next three and a half minutes, the teams battled it out until a Rennia Davis jumper put the Lady Vols up by three, 65-62, with 5:12 left. Lindsay Corsaro tied the game back up again with a three-pointer. After the teams traded buckets, it was 67-67 when Corsaro hit her second three-pointer in 53 seconds to put the Bruins ahead, 70-67. Davis would tie it back up again for the Lady Vols by making a layup and a subsequent free throw that completed a three-point play.
Onyenwere, Burke and Dean then combined to put the game away by going on a late 10-0 run which gave the Bruins an 80-70 lead with 1:24 left. The Lady Vols were able to cut the UCLA lead back to six points, but the Bruins hit seven of the last eight free throws to seal the win.
All of the Bruin starters were in double figures. Onyenwere led the team with 22 points and 15 rebounds while Kennedy Burke and Lindsay Corsaro added 19 and 18, respectively. Dean scored 14 and Drummer chipped in with 10 points.
What could be concerning is the number of minutes each starter is playing. Burke, who played 27 minutes, was the only starter who played less than 33 minutes. Drummer played 33 minutes while Onyenwere and Corsaro each played 35. Dean played 38 minutes in this game. That might become a problem the deeper the Bruins go in this tournament, but, for now, we’ll have to wait and see if it does become an issue.
UCLA now advances to play the Maryland Terrapins on Monday. Game time has not yet been set.