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UCLA faces tall task against Texas in second round of NCAA tournament

Texas center Charli Collier runs the court against TCU.
Junior center Charli Collier scored 23 points with 15 rebounds in Texas’ first-round win over Bradley.
(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)

Even with a 6-foot-1 guard occasionally playing power forward and the team making just three of 14 shots in the fourth quarter, UCLA had no trouble in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That is the luxury of being a Power Five team with an All-American playing an overmatched Wyoming team.

UCLA’s next task is much taller: 6-5 junior center Charli Collier.

A second-team All-American at Texas, Collier recently announced she would forgo her senior season to enter the WNBA draft. She is the projected top pick.

Collier, who averages 20.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, leads the sixth-seeded Longhorns (19-9) into a second-round NCAA tournament game against No. 3 seed UCLA on Wednesday at 6 p.m. PDT in San Antonio.

A win puts the Bruins (17-5) into their fifth consecutive regional semifinal. To get there, UCLA will have to overcome what looks like a nightmarish matchup for a team built around athletic players who can play and guard multiple positions. UCLA has only one player taller than 6-1: Emily Bessoir, a 6-4 forward, is a freshman playing in her first NCAA tournament games. Collier scored 23 points with 15 rebounds in Texas’ first-round win over Bradley.

Even against smaller opponents in the first round, UCLA’s post players struggled to defend without fouling. All three of the team’s forwards, Bessoir, Michaela Onyenwere and Lauryn Miller, ended the game against Wyoming with four fouls. Coach Cori Close shuffled her play calls and lineups by using a zone defense or putting guard Lindsey Corsaro at the No. 4 position.

Michaela Onyenwere finishes with 25 points to lead third-seeded UCLA to a 69-48 victory over Wyoming in the first round of the NCAA women’s tournament.

“There’s no way we can survive [playing that way against Texas],” Close said after Monday’s win. “I really think that that would be a tall task to expect to beat Texas and be in that kind of foul trouble.”

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UCLA hasn’t faced such a dominant post presence in the NCAA tournament since 2018, when Mississippi State’s 6-7 Teaira McCowan had 23 points and 21 rebounds in the Elite Eight. First-year Texas coach Vic Schaefer guided Mississippi State to the national championship game that season.

The Bruins challenged McCowan with a dynamic 23-point effort from point guard Jordin Canada. Three years later, UCLA will look for another Windward School alumna to break out: Charisma Osborne.

The sophomore shares point guard duties with Corsaro, and their combined ability to run the offense could be a difference-maker against Texas, Close said. Osborne averages 16.9 points and a team-high 3.9 assists per game. Despite her 5-9 frame, Osborne also ranks second on the team with 5.9 rebounds per game.

“Find me another guard in the country that has a more complete game than her,” Close said. “I think she’s one of the top guards and I love when she uses all of the things in her tool box like rebounding, leadership. Her basketball IQ is really, really high, and she’s in a really great position to be one of the best guards in the country and really it’s fun to watch her continue to grow into that.”

The Pac-12’s dominance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is helping the conference restore its credibility with a national audience.


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