March 25, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - UCLA coach Cori Close didn't want one defeat to overshadow a season.
After Oklahoma got a mix of inside and outside production to beat the Bruins 85-72 on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Close wanted to make sure the final score didn't overshadow what her team had accomplished.
"Ten years from now I'm going to value that they cared for each other and that they played their rear ends off and they never stopped being willing to look in the mirror and grow day by day," she said, fighting her emotions. "I never want that to be lost just because we didn't go as far as we wanted."
Alyssia Brewer and Thea Lemberger 10 apiece for third-seeded UCLA (26-8), which fell to 11-12 all-time in NCAA tournament play.
"We started at the beginning of the season kind of on our own paths," Nyingifa said. "We built it together and as a team. We kind of collaborated well together. Everything we've done thus far has been building since day one. We have grown and we see the growth."
Aaryn Ellenberg scored 27 points from the perimeter and Joanna McFarland handled things inside with 20 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Sooners into a regional semifinal against Tennessee (26-7) on Sunday, not far from campus in Oklahoma City. Sharane Campbell added 19 points and Nicole Griffin had 10 for the Sooners, who never trailed after a 15-3 first-half spurt.
The game was a rematch of each team's second game this season, when UCLA came to Norman, Okla., and beat the Sooners 86-80 on Nov. 14. In that game, the Bruins had bludgeoned the Sooners with their inside game, outrebounding them 56-34 and turning 24 offensive boards into 23 second-chance points.
But on this night, the Sooners fought on relatively even terms inside and outscored the Bruins 33-6 from 3-point range, hitting 11 of 27 to UCLA's 2 of 12. Three times in the last 3 minutes, it was McFarland who grabbed offensive rebounds to take time off the clock and add to the lead.
"We just played together and we played with a lot of emotion," McFarland said. "We refused to lose. It was all or nothing. It was a team effort and it just felt amazing the whole night."
Down 40-30 late in the first half, the Bruins closed with a 7-2 run and scored eight of the first 11 points in the second half to tie it briefly at 45.
But then Campbell hit a 3, McFarland made a free throw and Ellenberg tossed in a 3 from at least five feet behind the arc to put Oklahoma back up 52-45. The lead swelled to eight when Griffin hit a foul shot.
After the teams traded baskets over the next 2 1/2 minutes, Ellenberg raced down the floor in transition and hit a 3, pushing the lead back to 10 with 12:19 remaining.
"We felt like were chasing them from the start of the game," Close said.
The advantage remained at or near 10 points until Ellenberg came off a pick out high and hit nothing but net on a 3 for a 74-60 lead with just 4:31 left. UCLA never got closer than nine again.
As before, the Bruins won the board battle, 50-37. But every time the Sooners needed a big basket, it seemed Ellenberg got it, and every time they needed a rebound, it was McFarland grabbing it.
The Bruins will lose four senior starters.
"The last thing I told our team, I said, `You have to understand that this group of seniors has brought the program to a new level. They persevered through a lot and there's only one way to honor them. And that's to take the baton and go to a new level,"' Close said. "They blazed a really incredible trail."