Jan. 2, 2009
Los Angeles, Calif. - UCLA rallied from an early 19-2 deficit and went on to post a 60-53 victory over Oregon State in both teams' Pac-10 Conference opener on Friday evening at Pauley Pavilion. Bruin sophomore guard Nina Earl led the comeback win with 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field and five steals. The victory improved UCLA's overall record to 10-2 and a perfect 8-0 at home. The Bruins snapped a six-game winning streak by Oregon State and dropped the Beavers to 9-2 on the year.
The Beavers scored the first 13 points of the game before UCLA got on the scoreboard on a layup by senior center Chinyere Ibekwe at the 13:49 mark. The Bruins managed to convert just 1-of-11 field goals to start the game and found themselves down by 17 points, 19-2, with 10:29 left in the half as the Beavers hit eight of their first 14 shots.
Oregon State extended the lead to 23-6 before the Bruins went on a 19-1 run over the final 7:07 of the half. UCLA connected on eight of its last nine shots to end the half with a 25-24 lead. Earl scored all five of her first-half baskets during that stretch. Junior guard Erica Tukiainen added five points in the run, forced two turnovers and made two steals. Her steal and basket with 14 seconds left completed the Bruin run and gave UCLA its first lead of the game.
The Bruins continued their hot shooting at the start of the second half and surged to a 44-31 lead on a basket by Earl with 12:14 to play. Oregon State gradually crept back into the contest and used a 9-0 run to narrow the margin to 52-48 with 4:20 on the clock. UCLA junior center Moniquee Alexander broke a scoring drought by both teams with a shot in the lane at the 1:24 mark to make it 54-48. Beaver sophomore center Alex Mitchell scored for the Beavers to reduce the gap to four points again with 1:04 on the clock.
The Bruins then secured the game from the free throw line. Earl made the first of two free throws in the one-and-one situation for a five-point Bruin advantage with 57 seconds to play. UCLA forward/guard Atonye Nyingifa then grabbed the rebound of a Beaver miss and was fouled with 39 seconds remaining. The Bruin freshman made both ends of her one-and-one opportunity for a 57-50 UCLA lead. After a quick Oregon State basket, Tukiainen was fouled, and she connected on both ends of another one-and-one for UCLA to up the difference to 59-52 with 35 seconds to play. The teams then traded free throws to end the contest.
OSU's Mitchell led all players with 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field. Earl and Tukiainen each scored in double digits for UCLA. Earl led the Bruins with 15, and Tukiainen added 10. The pair also combined for eight of UCLA's 12 steals on the night. Sophomore forward Christina Nzekwe led all players with 11 rebounds.
UCLA (10-2, 1-0), which is off to its best start to a season since the 1980-81 team won its first 12 games, will host Oregon (3-8, 0-1) on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion.