The Bruins Put Oregon Away

Times Staff Writer

UCLA's dream of returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years got a little more realistic Saturday.

The undersized Bruins did something they weren't sure they could do -- beat a bigger Oregon team a third straight time this season. But UCLA combined its full-court pressure defense with a 28-11 run in the final 10 minutes to beat the Ducks, 71-58, before 4,188 at HP Pavilion.

UCLA freshman guard Nikki Blue validated her selection on the Pacific 10 All-Conference team with 30 points. Senior guard Michelle Greco, who was surrounded by Oregon defenders all game, added 16.

The Bruins (18-10) now face heavily favored Stanford today at 3 p.m. An upset win would almost guarantee UCLA an at-large tournament berth.

"We're excited to get the 'W' tonight," UCLA Coach Kathy Olivier said. "I thought our team showed a great deal of poise.... We stayed focused, kept chipping away, and got on a little roll.

Oregon, which had 15 points from Andrea Bills and 12 by Brandi Davis, ends it season 12-16.

Blue (15 points on 15 shots) came out firing and helped UCLA build a 22-10 lead on a variety of long jumpers and slashing drives through Duck defense.

"I'm not ready to go home, honestly," Blue said. "I'll do whatever it takes to have our team win."

Oregon weathered that early outburst and had closed within 29-26 before Greco, who was quiet offensively most of the half, banked in 35-foot three-point shot as the half ended to put the Bruins back up by six.

The Ducks continued to rally in the second half, going ahead 45-43. But at the 10-minute mark Olivier resurrected the Bruins full-court pressure, which had been dormant since early in the first half. The defense rattled Oregon into six of its 25 turnovers and sparked an 11-0 spurt that put UCLA back in front for good.

In other quarterfinal games:

Arizona 70, Oregon State 56 -- Senior forward Krista Warren scored 20 points to lead the third-seeded Wildcats (21-7) past the sixth-seeded Beavers. Freshman center Shawntinice Polk had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Arizona.

Arizona will play Washington in today's first semifinal.

Sophomore Jessica Jones and junior Leilani Estavan each had 12 for Oregon State (14-14).

Stanford 60, California 35 -- The top-seeded Cardinal (24-4) had little trouble with its Northern California neighbor, rolling to a 29-14 halftime lead and cruising to victory. Ninth-seeded Cal (10-19) made only 10 of 45 shots (22.2%). Its 35-point total is the lowest final score in the two-year history of the tournament.

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