LOS ANGELES -- UCLA bounced back from a final-possession loss to USC to beat the Utah Utes Friday evening at Pauley Pavilion, 55-38. The win evened the Bruins' overall record at 7-7 (1-1 in Pac-12 play) and dropped the Utes to 7-5 (0-1).
Sophomore Nirra Fields led the Bruins with 21 points, while senior Atonye Nyingifa added her fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Nyingifa also set a career high with five steals. Freshman Emily Potter led Utah with 10 points and senior Michelle Plouffe was one of four Utes with at least six rebounds, as she pulled down 10.
Fields set the tone for the night when she picked up a steal on the Utes' first possession and converted a jumper on the offensive end. The Bruins made their first three shots of the game and jumped out to a 10-0 lead that it never relinquished. The steals kept coming as UCLA had grabbed seven at the 11:27 mark and led by a game-high 18, 22-4. Utah chipped away with a 9-4 run late and trailed the Bruins at the half, 28-16.
Utah resolved some of its turnover issues in the second half and cut its deficit under 10 on a jumper by Potter with 14:04 remaining. UCLA shot just 30.8% in the second half and 36.2% overall and made just 11 of 21 free throws. UCLA continued its strong play on the defensive end (Utah shot 27.3% from the field overall) and an aggressive Fields helped the Bruins pull away. Leading 40-34, UCLA scored seven consecutive points (five by Fields) and used heavy pressure late to finish off the Utes, as senior Thea Lemberger secured her career high-tying fifth steal. Lemberger also scored 17 points.
Utah controlled the boards 47-37, but 16 total steals by the Bruins towards 25 Ute turnovers were the difference.
UCLA will look to move over .500 overall and in Pac-12 play Sunday evening when they host No. 12/14 Colorado. The Bruins and Buffaloes will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.
Utah at UCLA