It’s a Monday night. The crowd is roaring.
This was an anticipated night for the UCLA Bruins, since it was the night that determined if they would make it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in four years.
Coach Cori Close emphasized a focus on the pacing of the game against the Oklahoma Sooners. “Oklahoma is one of the most fast-paced teams. A really good offensive team…so there’s a completely different gameplan.”
Camryn Brown (#35) came into the first quarter with a momentous steal, which led to the ball falling out of bounds and being awarded to the Bruins. The first quarter set a precedent for the audience and the team—there were going to be lots of fouls. Because of the Sooners’ offense, it can be presumed that Coach Close was looking for strong defense, which led to fouls by the referees. The Bruins accumulated 18 non-foul turnovers and 29 fouls (12 being in the fourth quarter), while the Sooners’ had 26 fouls (14 in the fourth quarter).
Brown later said that the team should “[slow] down, [have] more composure” for the next game against South Carolina. “We did a really good job of speeding [Oklahoma] up, and our defense was super aggressive,” she expressed, before admitting, “I think we got a little excited after certain stops happened, and our game just sped up.”
All the fouls provided many chances for free throws. Charisma Osborne (#20) made 100% of her free throws (17-17) and Kiki Rice (#1) made 7-8 of her free throws, making this a great night for Bruins at the line. After the game, Osborne shared an anecdote about her record for making (42) free throws in a row during a practice. “One time, I was at L.A. Fitness or something with my dad… and he was like ‘okay, if you make 30 free throws, you get ice cream’ or something like that. 30 in a row. And that was the first time I ever made 30 in a row, probably the first time I ever made 10 in a row. I don’t know what happened; I flipped the switch. Since then, I’ve been pretty good at free throws.”
With this defense, and spectacular offense by Osborne with 36 points that night, the Bruins advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. This win was contested, however, with a close score of 61-59 UCLA in the last five minutes of the game. The final score of 82-73 came with the mentality of “one stop at a time, one score at a time, not thinking too far ahead,” according to Lina Sontag (#21).
This rollercoaster of a game excited a Bruin-filled crowd for what’s to come during the rest of March Madness. Women’s Sports activist and TikTok Creator Audrey DeVaughn (@audreydevaughn) shared some thoughts on the game.
“This was my first UCLA women’s basketball game. It was also [the first game for] the people who I was with… it really showed them that the product of women’s basketball is really good and I’ve been saying that.” She then emphasizes the importance of showing up to women’s sports events. “Until you’re actually at a game it’s like, people don’t internalize it. Especially on my TikTok, a lot of people are like ‘the product’s not good’ and blah blah blah, but I’m like, have you been to a women’s basketball game? Like, no. Once you go, you can see how awesome it is.”
DeVaughn continues by name dropping the team members that she looked forward to watching most. Some of these names included “Kiki Rice, Charisma Osborne, and Gabriela Jaquez. Conti played really [well]. I felt like they worked really well together.”
“Basketball is one of the few sports that you can have different roles on the team, and still be as valuable, so I thought of that especially with Camryn Brown. I saw how, near the end, they were switching her out for offense, defense, offense, defense,” she stated. “So she was less of a scorer, but they needed her on the court for defense. Basketball is a game that can really elevate those types of players.”
“I was impressed by how much team chemistry they had, and I’m glad that I got the opportunity to see them at home, because it was really exciting.”
Although the Bruins ended their March Madness run in the Sweet Sixteen, women’s basketball will be back in Pauley Pavilion in November.
On April 5th, Charisma Osborne and Camryn Brown announced on instagram that they will be using their 5th year of eligibility to continue their journeys as UCLA Bruins.