The UCLA Bruins women’s basketball team ended a fantastic season on March 30 with a back-and-forth loss to the LSU Tigers. Even though UCLA was the higher-ranked seed, they came into the game three-point underdogs. The Bruins looked like they had a legitimate chance at a title this season, but the reigning national champions, led by the SEC Player of the Year Angel Reese, certainly have their own plans of repeating this year. The Bruins would end up playing a sloppy game and losing to a much more consistent and battle-tested veteran team. 

Although the quarter would end tied 15-15, the Bruins were difficult to watch, missing all of their jumpers and scoring all 15 of their points in the paint. Sophomore guard Flau’jae Johnson would get off to a fast start, scoring 8 of her game-leading 24 points. The Bruins looked to establish center Lauren Betts early, just like they did in their last game, and she would score five quick points in the quarter. In what tends to be a stale-looking offense, Betts was consistently met with double and triple teams and denied entry passes, as everyone knew the Bruins’s game plan. Guard Londynn Jones, who had struggled with her shot mightily the last two games – shooting 0-3 and 3-10 respectively – would try her best to shoot the Bruins out of the game. With a seemingly unlimited green light, she only shot 1-6 in the first period. 

The second quarter would see the Tigers open their widest lead to ten points with one minute left to play. Bruins guard Kiki Rice would make a few jumpers in the middle of the quarter, but the team would be marred by turnovers, fouls, and missed wide-open jumpers. The Tigers would enter the half up 34-27.

Much like in their last game against Creighton, the Bruins found their footing in the third quarter bringing the game back level 48-48. Ripping off an 11-2 run, highlighted by a couple of Jones triples, the Bruins would even regain a small lead at one point. 

Alas, the fourth quarter would be the Bruins undoing. Even though the score would end with a nine-point deficit, it wasn’t indicative of how close the game really was. It felt like the Bruins let go more than the Tigers impressively dominated. Rather, the Tigers were more consistent in more moments and that would allow them to finally put the Bruins to bed. 

The Bruins would keep up their mistake-prone play, with more turnovers and fouls. UCLA would end up committing 19 turnovers on the night. They also committed 25 fouls, which would lead to an insane 31 foul shots for the Tigers. The Bruins would end up shooting 22 percent from the three-point line, and just a measly 35 percent from the field overall.

The Bruins felt lost all night, struggling to find an offensive presence that worked for them. They looked best in the offense when Betts was able to find open teammates for easy baskets out of the double team. But the number of unforced turnovers would stop them from establishing any kind of rhythm, despite outrebounding one of the nation’s best rebounding teams 44-38. 

The game was not without controversy. Leading up to the contest, UCLA Head Coach Cori Close forwarded an L.A. Times piece by Ben Bolch that made the LSU women and Head Coach Kim Mulkey out to be the “villains” of women’s hoops. She was forced to apologize, tweeting later, “I made a mistake. I reposted that article after reading the headline, not the contents of the column. In an effort to increase coverage for our game, I shared it and went back to try to stay focused on my task at hand.” Later repeating, “I made a huge mistake in reposting without reading it first, and I am very sorry for that.”

The Tigers advance to face number 1 seed Iowa in the next round on Monday, April 1 at 4:00 p.m. in what might be the most-watched women’s college basketball game of the year. It will be a rematch of last year’s national championship game where Reese and the Tigers demolished Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes. Iowa and Clark will certainly have their eyes set on revenge as they look to make up for their performance in last year’s title game.

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