Charisma Osborne powers UCLA women past Sacramento State in NCAA tournament

UCLA guard Charisma Osborne, center, shoots over Sacramento State guard Benthe Versteeg.
UCLA guard Charisma Osborne, center, shoots over Sacramento State guard Benthe Versteeg, left, during the second half of the Bruins’ 67-45 win in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Charisma Osborne wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Pauley Pavilion just yet.

The senior guard led UCLA to a 67-45 rout over No. 13 Sacramento State in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday to earn the No. 4 Bruins a final chance to play in front of their home crowd this season.

UCLA will face No. 5 seed Oklahoma on Monday at 7 p.m. PDT for a spot in the Sweet 16 after the Sooners defeated No. 12 Portland 85-63 on Saturday.


David Singleton exited late with an ankle sprain as UCLA held off Northwestern 68-63 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

March 18, 2023

Osborne flashed the all-around skill that could make her a high WNBA draft pick this season with 11 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Forward Emily Bessoir had 14 points and eight rebounds while freshman Kiki Rice had a team-high 15 points, including 10 points in the first quarter that equaled Sacramento State’s total score in the first frame.

“Charisma, she’s probably one of the ones that puts the most pressure on herself and I thought she was the most consistent,” coach Cori Close said, noting Osborne’s zero turnovers and team-leading plus-22. “She made winning plays.”

UCLA (26-9) is now 7-0 in first-round NCAA tournament games under Close. A win Monday would send UCLA to its fifth Sweet 16 of Close’s 12-year tenure and the first for her current players.

The lack of postseason experience is mainly the result of the pandemic, which canceled the 2020 NCAA tournament for Osborne and Camryn Brown, who were freshmen on a team that was ranked in the top 11 all season. The following year, the Bruins were eliminated in the second round of the bubble tournament in the San Antonio area because of COVID-19 protocols.

Reflecting on her unique postseason experience leading up to the game, Osborne marveled at the opportunity to have a “regular” tournament this year. It was what she came to UCLA to achieve, and on Saturday, she made the long wait worth it.

Osborne was flirting with her career high in rebounds by halftime, pulling down nine boards with six points and four assists as the Bruins took a 17-point lead at the break. She recorded multiple blocks for just the second time this season and, defensively, served as one of the primary players guarding Sacramento State star Kahlaijah Dean.

The Big Sky MVP, who was averaging 21.1 points per game, was held to 11 points on three-of-19 shooting. The transfer from Oakland notched six rebounds and five assists as center Isnelle Natabou led Sacramento State with 16 points and 10 rebounds.


“We always talk about defense being our anchor and I think everyone took that to heart,” Osborne said. “If we were going to win and win by a lot, we needed to play defense and that’s going to be a key to every game moving forward.”

Rice’s hot start paced the Bruins through a first quarter that included a 14-0 run to shut down questions about how the team would react to a two-week layoff after losing in the Pac-12 tournament final. It wasn’t just the break between tournaments that kept the Bruins sidelined, but they also had to wait for Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. PDT tip. It was the final first-round game of the tournament.

Rice, who has scored in double digits in seven of her last eight games, said she spent Saturday morning watching games in the men’s and women’s tournaments. By the time the Bruins could finally take the court, she was just excited to join the postseason party.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Osborne said, glancing over to Rice, who was sitting to her left. “Were you?”

The freshman shook her head.