The #3 Women’s UCLA basketball team got past the #2 Texas Longhorns, the Sweet 16 and a recent trend as they move onto the Elite 8 for only the second time in program history.
UCLA basketball is back in the Elite 8 as the women finally broke through to the other side, to use a lyric from former UCLA Bruin, Jim Morrison. The Bruins beat Texas, 84-75 in one of the more signature games in the Cori Close era as they not only got their revenge for their 2016 NCAA Tournament exit, which came at the hands of the Longhorns, but after three attempts, the Bruins finally got past the Sweet 16.
For those that remember that 2016 tourney game, you might recall the Bruins having complete control through three quarters, until Texas went on a 24-10 run in the 4th quarter, ending the Bruins’ deepest expedition in the NCAAs under Close.
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This game started out in similar fashion. The Bruins had control through the first half as the Bruins took a 39-31 lead into halftime. Monique Billings had taken over early as she had 11 points before the break, leading up to 17 points and 22 rebounds. She took the weight of the game upon her shoulders to start as Jordin Canada need a bit of time to get into gear.
By halftime, Canada only had two points, via free throws, though she had six assists. And hone the second half happened.
Canada finished the game with 22 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals. She was a key piece to UCLA’s successful attempt at holding off the Longhorns and keeping UCLA out in front.
With memories of two years prior serving as a reminder of what not to do, UCLA had an answer for Texas’ second half 7-0 run to start the third quarter, bringing the score to within one at 39-38. That is when Canada and the Bruins kicked it into high gear, as they finished the third quarter on a 20-11 run which resulted in a 59-49 lead.
The Bruins never trailed again. Though the Longhorns put up a fight of their own in the last frame, UCLA kept the pressure and never slowed down their effort. Even though a UCLA win was imminent, Canada was not happy until the clock hit 00:00.
Considering their 2016 exit, it was a reasonable request by Canada, but it was already known at that point that the Bruins were moving on as they were about to complete one of the biggest wins in recent history. It would be only the second time they accomplished that feat, the first being in 1999. If they can make it past the next round and into the Final Four, it would be the first time UCLA Women’s basketball makes it that deep into the NCAA Tournament, but let us not get ahead of ourselves.
The further they get in the Big Dance, the tougher the competition. Their opponent on Saturday will be no different. The Bruins take on #1 Mississippi State, last season’s national runner up. It was quiet an accomplishment to make it this far, but now that the Bruins, who have a chance to make even more history, has to refocus and continue to play with passion and fire.