With what lies ahead, UCLA needed a chance to rest.
After playing three overtimes in their past two games ahead of a six-game stretch that includes five ranked opponents, No. 10 UCLA breezed to a 66-50 win over Washington State on Sunday at Pauley Pavilion. Junior Michaela Onyenwere scored 23 points with six rebounds while freshman Charisma Osborne added 16 points to a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double from junior Lauryn Miller.
The victory kept the Bruins (18-1, 7-1 Pac-12) in a three-way tie for first place in the Pac-12 along with No. 4 Oregon and No. 6 Stanford, and extended UCLA’s home winning streak to 14.
“I thought our start was much more aggressive,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “I thought our togetherness to execute the game plan was better and I think we made some strides and I still feel like we have a long way to go.”
During their 16-game winning streak to start the season, the Bruins never trailed by more than seven points. But in overtime games against USC and Washington, they were outscored 65-42 in the first halves combined and stared at double-digit halftime deficits.
There was no need for such a comeback Sunday.
UCLA blew open a tied game after the first quarter with a dominant 18-6 second quarter. UCLA forced three consecutive steals to open the period and 19 total Washington State turnovers. With 19 total points off turnovers, UCLA’s lead swelled to as many as 24, despite the Bruins shooting 0-for-15 from three-point range.
“Everybody is going to know each other’s offenses,” Close said. “At this point, we know it, but [it’s about] … how can you read the defense the best, how can you use your aggression with the knowledge of your personnel and that’s what we gotta continue to get better at.”
The upcoming stretch of games will reveal UCLA’s progress and could define the Bruins as a legitimate championship contender.
The challenging gauntlet starts Friday at No. 18 Arizona, continuing with road games at No. 16 Arizona State (Feb. 2) and No. 6 Stanford (Feb. 7) before hosting No. 4 Oregon and No. 7 Oregon State on Feb. 14 and 17, respectively.
Close has been looking forward to a tough schedule.
“You can’t run from the heat,” the ninth-year coach said. “You got to relish what the heat is going to reveal and how you’re going to be able to deal with that as a response. I’m going to find out a lot about my team.”
The Bruins have faced only three teams currently ranked in the Associated Press top 25. They got wins at No. 17 Indiana and swept Arizona State and Arizona at Pauley Pavilion. The ASU win came down to multiple missed tip-ins by the Sun Devils in the final seconds. The Bruins expect to have similar nail-biters coming up.
“We know it’s going to be a battle every single game and that’s why we came to UCLA,” Onyenwere said. “That’s why we compete in this conference.”