Jan. 16, 2003
Tempe, AZ - The UCLA women's basketball team won for the seventh-consecutive time and remained in sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 Conference after a thrilling 60-58 victory over Arizona State. Bruin freshman Nikki Blue led all players with a career-high 30 points, including 22 points in the second half, and hit key free throws and made key steals down the stretch to preserve the lead.
With the Bruins trailing by one with less than a minute to play, Blue hit a 15-foot basket to give the Bruins a 58-57 lead. Blue then stole the ball on ASU's next possession and was fouled with 31 seconds to play. She made the first of a one-on-one but missed the second. Down by two points, Sun Devil Kristen Kovesdy was fouled during a block attempt and went to the free throw line with 8.8 seconds on the clock. Kovesdy missed the first shot and made the second to cut the lead to one again. Blue was fouled immediately with 6.9 seconds to play and made the first basket. She missed the second, and ASU's Carrie Buckner missed on a half-court shot at the buzzer that would have given the Sun Devils the victory.
Blue finished with 30 points, two points away from UCLA's all-time single-game record for freshmen. She also had nine rebounds, two assists and three steals. Leading scorer Michelle Greco was harassed into just six points but had a career-high nine rebounds.
"Nikki was huge for us today," said UCLA head coach Kathy Olivier. "Defensively the team did very well. We made good decisions, we're keeping our poise on the road, and we're playing smart basketball."
UCLA, which led 30-29 at the half, was outrebounded by a 55-35 margin but forced 23 turnovers. The Bruins also benefited from poor free throw shooting by the Sun Devils, who made just 6-13 (46.2%) from the charity stripe.
The Bruins maintained their lead in the Pac-10, improving to 6-0 in the conference and 11-4 overall. Arizona State falls to 11-5, 3-4 in the conference. UCLA will meet 22nd-ranked Arizona on Saturday at 2:00 pm MT.