Nov. 11, 2011
LOS ANGELES - Sophomore Rhema Gardner had a career- and game-high 18 points, while junior Atonye Nyingifa posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, as the 22nd-ranked Bruins never trailed in defeating McNeese State 67-59 on Friday at the John Wooden Center in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.
The Bruins, led by first-year head coach Cori Close, will host Tennessee Tech in the second round on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the JWC.
Gardner was 5-of-7 from the field and 7-of-10 from the free-throw line. Nyingifa was 7-of-12 from the field, tied a personal best with her dozen boards and added three blocks. Sophomore Thea Lemberger and freshman Moriah Faulk each scored 10 points, with Faulk adding six rebounds. Senior Rebekah Gardner added nine points, seven rebounds and four assists, junior Mariah Williams tallied six assists and sophomore Corinne Costa had five rebounds and two blocks. The Bruins shot 54.3% (25-for-46) from the field for the game.
Less than five minutes into the contest, the Bruins already had a double-digit advantage, leading 16-5 at the 15:44 mark. Lemberger and Rhema Gardner each had five points during that opening run, while Rebekah Gardner added four. The closest the Cowgirls would get for the rest of the first half was six at 19-13 with 11:05 remaining. However, a personal 5-0 run by Faulk got the lead back up to double digits at 24-13.
The Bruins' lead stayed between nine and 15 for the rest of the half, as they went into the locker room with a 39-26 edge. Faulk led all scorers in the first half with 10 points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field. Nyingifa added nine points and five rebounds, Rebekah Gardner posted seven, Lemberger had six and Rhema Gardner recorded five. The Bruins shot 64% (16-for-25) from the field in the first half and drained all three of their shots from beyond the arc.
Thanks to an 8-0 run to start the second half, the Bruins' lead quickly grew to 21 four minutes in, with Nyingifa recording five of the eight points. UCLA's biggest lead of the contest was 25 at 53-28 with 14:39 left.
Slowly but surely, the Cowgirls would begin to whittle their deficit down, but could not catch back up. Still trailing by 18 at 62-44 with 4:28 left, McNeese State scored 15 of the final 20 points of the contest, but UCLA held on for the 67-59 victory. Gardner had 13 of her 18 points in the second half, while Nyingifa added seven points and seven rebounds in the final 20 minutes. The Bruins shot 42.9% from the field in the second.
Ashlyn Baggett (15), Caitlyn Baggett (12) and Kendra Wells (11) were all in double figures in points for the Cowgirls.