UCLA was 5-0 in NCAA first-round games under head coach Cori Close entering Monday’s matchup. Michaela Onyenwere made it clear early against no. 14 seed Wyoming that the Bruins would make it six in a row.
Led by Onyenwere’s 25 points, including 11 in the first quarter, UCLA took control of the game early with a 13-3 start and rarely if ever let up en route to a 69-48 victory. The Bruins move on to the second round of the tournament against no. 6 Texas Wednesday.
UCLA had a clear size advantage at every position, and that manifested itself throughout. The Bruins were able to get into the paint at will and then use their length and strength to get over or power through defenders. The footwork of not just Onyenwere, but also Lauryn Miller, in the post was something to behold, specifically Onyenwere’s spins and face ups into easy short-range jumpers. Charisma Osborne complemented them by blowing past her defenders on her way to the rim.
When UCLA missed the first look, the Bruins were active on the offensive glass. They had offensive rebounds on eight of their 15 first-half misses, making it even more challenging for the Cowgirls to keep pace.
On the defensive end, Wyoming tried to make things difficult with its motion offense. The Cowgirls were constantly moving in the half court, driving and kicking, then relocating on the perimeter. UCLA did a good job of staying attacked, and once again, the team’s size came into play. The Bruins were able to pressure up, using their length to limit passing angles and force Wyoming to second-guess. Their athleticism also allowed them to recover for blocks and steals if they were beaten on backdoor cuts.
What the Cowgirls did well was shoot from distance, at least early before they were forced to launch in an effort to come back. They shot better on threes than twos in the first half, but they only made one more three than UCLA, which wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the disparity in the paint.
The other problem for the Bruins was foul trouble late in the game. Miller, Onyenwere, and Emily Bessoir each had four fouls at the start of the fourth quarter, and combined with some general fatigue after building a big lead, the final period was a slog. The team only had two points over seven minutes into the fourth, but UCLA’s defense was good enough to prevent Wyoming from coming back. Still, the inability to finish strong is worth keeping an eye on once the Bruins play someone with better depth.
But the name of the game is survive and advance, and that’s what the Bruins did. Bring on the Longhorns.