Skip to main content

Pac-12 Hoops Central

All things Pac-12
Men's & Women's Basketball

UCLA women's basketball 'set a standard' during Sweet 16 run

Mar 26, 2023

UCLA wasn’t afraid of South Carolina, not intimidated by their undefeated record or their national title. The Bruins had already been to Columbia earlier this season to face the Gamecocks on their home floor and they came out feeling like they lost a game they could have won, a game that was tied midway through the fourth quarter.

So when the Bruins got a second chance on Saturday in Greenville in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, they felt prepared.

But feeling and execution are sometimes not aligned, and UCLA’s offensive struggles against the Gamecocks this time around prevented this from being the challenge that the Bruins wanted to present, with UCLA falling in a low-scoring affair 59-43 to bring their season to a close.

The Bruins ended with a 27-10 record and disappointment that they couldn’t be as good as they needed — or were just a few months ago—  to be able to push the defending national champs again.

“It doesn’t feel good, honestly,” said UCLA senior guard Charisma Osborne, playing in her final collegiate game and leading all Bruins scorers with 14 points.

UCLA was held to its lowest scoring total in nine seasons.

“Obviously we wanted to keep going further in the tournament, but I think just all of the vets, all of the seniors really set the tone in how this season would go," she said. "I'm just super proud of everyone for the way they bought into the culture here and the way that everyone has just carried themselves and just put the team first.”

South Carolina led the game from start to finish and UCLA struggled to find the offensive firepower to close the gap, shooting 29.4 percent from the floor and just 3 of 18 from beyond the arc. Senior Camryn Brown said the Bruins’ offensive pace felt “frantic” at times. The noise created by more than 13,000 people — most of them pulling for South Carolina — made it difficult for UCLA to run its offense.

“We didn't do much of anything that we had planned on at the beginning in terms of how we wanted to create ball reversal and get downhill on attacks,” said UCLA coach Cori Close. “And we were really standing and watching, and our movement away from the ball wasn't creating anything easier once people touched the ball. it's going to be a hard film to really study and break down.”

UCLA did well to hold down South Carolina, who shot 38 percent and they neutralized national player of the year candidate Aliyah Boston, who finished with eight points, but 14 rebounds.

Brown reiterated that UCLA was not intimidated by South Carolina, but the Gamecocks’ defense disrupted them.

“I really think their physicality, them guarding us and blowing up the screens, something we haven't played in a while, and I don't think we responded quick enough to it and figured it out quick enough,” Brown said. “I think credit to them, their physicality on defense I think really bothered us because we couldn't get into a flow of how we really wanted to run our offense.”

UCLA’s trip to the Sweet 16, the eighth program history and the first since 2019, was an impressive bounceback from a season ago when injuries decimated the roster and left the Bruins out of the brackets. They would end up competing in the WNIT, reaching the semifinals. 

This season, with nine new players, UCLA went from being unranked and quickly into the national rankings. By the end of the regular season they were playing their best basketball, making a run to the Pac-12 Tournament title game and earning the opportunity to host two games at Pauley Pavilion.

Close talked about this group of players setting a new tone for the program. It’s been a difficult four years, with COVID impacts and injuries. The Bruins were the youngest team in the field, and their young players such as Kiki Rice and Londynn Jones gained invaluable experience that they will use moving forward.

Still, it’s a tough day.

“This is always just so hard. It's like my least favorite day of the year, and it's because I love these seniors, because I love our team, and you just don't want the journey to end with them,” Close said. “At the beginning of the year they talked about the culture they were going to create, and it didn't matter that we were unranked, didn't matter that we had nine new players, that they were going to make sure we had great chemistry, we were going to have a growth mindset and we were going to invest in each other.

“And that is exactly the standard that they set, and that's the standard that they held. We didn't play our best game tonight, but I'm not going to let that take away the journey that these seniors led us through and the growth and the team that they grew into.”