UCLA’s season ends with loss to Texas in second round of NCAA tournament
Tears welled in the corners of Michaela Onyenwere’s eyes from her seat on the sideline.
This wasn’t the ending the UCLA All-American envisioned.
The senior’s storied UCLA career ended Wednesday with a 71-62 loss to No. 6 seed Texas in the second round of the NCAA tournament in San Antonio. Onyenwere had 21 points and five rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to will the third-seeded Bruins (17-6) to their fifth straight regional semifinal. Instead, the Longhorns (20-9) will advance to face No. 2 seed Maryland on Saturday.
Onyenwere, UCLA’s first two-time All-American, moved into fourth place on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,888 career points, but watched the final seconds of her collegiate career tick by from the bench after fouling out with 3:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bruins trailed by 12.
UCLA cut the margin to eight without her, but never threatened the Longhorns.
“You don’t get many of her,” coach Cori Close said, choking back tears. “I’ve been doing this 28 years and God, that kid is special. … I’m the luckiest head coach in the country that I got to be a part of her life.”
Local AAU basketball team, the Compton Magic, was once home for five players who are still playing in the NCAA tournament.
Onyenwere struggled to find space during Wednesday’s physical game with labored eight-of-21 shooting, including 0-for-five from three-point range. She has not officially declared for the WNBA draft, but the emotion pouring out of the usually stoic senior gave the impression that her days in a UCLA jersey are over.
“I’m incredibly proud of my team this year,” Onyenwere said through sobs. “I’m incredibly proud, honored to go to UCLA and have these dreams that I did. Today was rough but I’m extremely grateful for everything UCLA has given me.”
Onyenwere came to UCLA with dreams of becoming a dentist. Now she is a top-10 WNBA draft prospect. She gave the Bruins a steadying presence when everything around them, whether it was the short roster or games getting postponed during the pandemic, seemed to be in flux.
The same applied Wednesday when their offense struggled in the first half. UCLA fell behind by 21 points at halftime and committed more turnovers (eight) than made shots (six). Of their 14 first-half points, Onyenwere had 10.
UCLA attacked the basket to chip away at the lead in the third quarter when Charisma Osborne shook off three first-half fouls to deliver 17 of her 19 points after halftime.
The Bruins didn’t attempt their first free throw until the final two minutes of the second quarter and had just two free throws in the first half. They had 15 in the third quarter alone as they chopped the deficit to 10 entering the fourth quarter.
The parents of UCLA basketball players have come to the NCAA tournament to watch and communicate with their sons, even if it’s from behind a glass door.
Onyenwere cut the lead to nine with a free throw with 4:41 remaining in the fourth for the team’s first single-digit deficit since the first half.
Texas then answered with a three-pointer on the next possession. The shot extinguished any hopes of a UCLA comeback.
UCLA, which has played through a short bench all year, finished the game with just five scholarship players available after Onyenwere fouled out, senior Lauryn Miller suffered a knee injury and junior Chantel Horvat aggravated a foot injury. Onyenwere and Miller covered their faces on the bench, wiping tears away as their careers ended. Injured sophomore Camryn Brown rubbed their shoulders.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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