No. 9 UCLA can’t quite catch up to No. 7 Arizona in 68-65 loss
Trinity Baptiste had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Aari McDonald added 17 points and No. 7 Arizona held off No. 9 UCLA 68-65 on Friday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
The Bruins rallied after Arizona went up eight, pulling to 67-65 on Charisma Osborne’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. Arizona’s Cate Reese made 1 of 2 free throws to give UCLA a last chance, but Osborne’s 3-pointer with five seconds left hit the back of the rim.
Arizona (2-0) labored early against the physical Bruins and shot 6 of 25 from 3-point range. The Wildcats made up for it with stifling defense in the third quarter and some big shots late to win the first meeting with both teams in the top-10 since 1998.
UCLA (1-1) used an 18-4 run spanning the first and second quarters to go up nine, but missed 17 of 18 shots in the third quarter as Arizona surged into the lead. Osborne led UCLA with 15 points.
Both teams entered this pandemic-shifted season with lofty expectations.
The No. 9 Bruins play at No. 7 Arizona on Friday and UCLA women’s coach Cori Close will be thinking of Rafer Johnson, the UCLA and Olympic legend who died this week.
Arizona had highest ranking ever at No. 7 in The Associated Press preseason poll with the return of McDonald, a preseason All-American, Reese and Sam Thomas.
The Wildcats opened the season with a 16-point win over Northern Arizona.
UCLA had four players return from a 26-win team last season and opened at No. 9 in the AP Top 25. The Bruins crushed Cal State Fullerton 98-59 in their opener before Sunday’s game against Pepperdine was postponed due to coronavirus concerns.
Defense dominated early in the desert showdown.
Arizona missed all three of its 3-point attempts and played most of the first quarter without McDonald after she picked up two fouls. UCLA went more than six minutes without a field goal before hitting a few shots late in the first to lead 14-12.
The Bruins kept making shots as the Wildcats clanged, using an opening 11-2 run to go up 25-14 in the second quarter. Arizona finally started hitting a few shots late, but UCLA made 11 of 18 in the quarter to lead 38-32.
The Bruins went cold again in the third quarter, missing 16 straight shots during a scoreless drought of nearly 6½ minutes. Arizona took advantage, going on a 9-0 run to go up 48-42.
UCLA began making shots again in the fourth quarter, hitting 6 of 8 to pull within 58-56 with three minutes left. McDonald followed with a putback and Baptiste hit a straight-on 3-pointer to pushed the lead back to eight.
Up next for UCLA: At Arizona State on Sunday.
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