UCLA stunned by No. 1 South Carolina’s defensive prowess in season-ending loss

South Carolina's Aliyah Boston puts up a shot in front of UCLA's Charisma Osborne, Kiki Rice and Camryn Brown.
South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston puts up a shot in front of UCLA’s Charisma Osborne, Kiki Rice and Camryn Brown during the first half of the Bruins’ loss Saturday in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

When South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso is swatting shots like the one she did against UCLA’s Londynn Jones — chasing the speedy guard down in transition during the second quarter and spiking the ball off the backboard — Cori Close can do little more than shake her head.

“Oh brother,” the Bruins coach said of the play that encapsulated both South Carolina’s defensive prowess and UCLA’s offensive ineptitude Saturday.

The top-ranked Gamecocks smothered the No. 4-seeded Bruins in a 59-43 rout that ended UCLA’s season in the Greenville Regional 1 semifinal at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. While UCLA (27-10) became one of two teams to hold the defending national champions to fewer than 60 points this season, the Bruins also suffered their lowest-scoring game since 2012.


South Carolina (35-0), hoping to become the first repeat NCAA champion since Connecticut won four consecutive titles from 2013 to 2016, next will play No. 2 seed Maryland in the Elite Eight on Monday.

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March 25, 2023

The Gamecocks will get a boost from their home-state fans who filled the arena Saturday. Except for a small patch of blue-and-gold-clad fans sitting opposite the Bruins’ bench, the majority of the 12,879 was wearing South Carolina’s garnet and black.

The stage seemed to rattle the Bruins, who pointed to the noise as a factor in their offensive struggles.

“We couldn’t get on the same page,” senior Camryn Brown said. “We were a little frantic out there.”

Senior Charisma Osborne, likely playing in her final college game, finished with a team-high 14 points but committed a season-high five turnovers.

If the former L.A. Windward star forgoes her last season of eligibility, she will have gone out with a bang. She scored 36 points in the second round against Oklahoma, a school record for the tournament, and averaged 18.1 points in seven postseason games, which included a run to the Pac-12 title game. With Osborne leading the way, the Bruins returned to the NCAA tournament after missing the cut last season.


“All of the vets, all of the seniors really set the tone in how this season would go, especially with how last season went,” she said. “So I’m just super proud of everyone for the way they bought into the culture here and the way that everyone has just carried themselves and just put the team first.”

South Carolina won its 41st consecutive game and remains on track for its third title in the last six tournaments. The Gamecocks outrebounded UCLA 24-14 in the first half, which included a 9-0 advantage on the offensive boards, and have held all three of their tournament opponents to 45 points or fewer.

When it comes to those foundational pieces, South Carolina might be one of the best teams ever, Close said.

Yet the Bruins still were confident entering the game despite a 73-64 loss in Columbia, S.C., in November. One of just five teams that the Gamecocks didn’t beat by double digits this season, the Bruins thought they unlocked a successful formula by dictating the pace while playing aggressively.

Then on the biggest stage, the strategy was nowhere to be found.

“I am a big believer that when you get in those situations that you sink to the level of your training,” Close said. “As the leader, I have to go back to how do I raise the level of our training so that when the most pressurized moments come, we have a chance to perform at a higher level? Ultimately I take responsibility for that, but that definitely caught me off guard because that isn’t the characteristic of the team throughout the year.”

With five freshmen in the rotation, the Bruins are expected to return to the tournament next year. UCLA earned its first Sweet 16 since 2019 after beginning the season unranked. It was the first significant NCAA tournament experience for every player, including Brown and Osborne, who had the tournament canceled as freshmen and were confined to a postseason bubble as sophomores.


Close credited the seniors, including Brynn Masikewich and Gina Conti, for setting the standard that allowed the Bruins to revitalize the program this season.

“This is always so hard,” Close said. “It’s because I love these seniors, because I love our team, and you just don’t want the journey to end with them.”

UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close feels the secret to success in the NCAA tournament is getting players to find a balance between focus and fun.

March 19, 2023