ESTERO, Fla. -- The first-ever meeting between UCLA and Grand Canyon didn't disappoint as the Bruins improved to 3-3 overall with a 62-60 come-from-behind victory in the consolation bracket of the Gulf Coast Showcase on Saturday afternoon at Germain Arena.
Sophomore Nirra Fields drove into the paint and drew three Antelope defenders, but scored a difficult shot off the glass in traffic with :02 remaining to give the Bruins a 62-60 lead. Grand Canyon's (5-2) desperation three-point shot from beyond half court was short. Fields finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds to go with two blocks and two assists.
Like yesterday's game with James Madison, the Bruins quickly fell behind, trailing 5-0, before Atonye Nyingifa hit her first three-pointer of the season. Nyingifa, playing with back pain, managed 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Bruins trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, but fought back to close the gap to five (37-32) at halftime. The Bruins outshot GCU in the first half 47.8% to 40.7% and outrebounded the 'Lopes 18-15, but committed 10 turnovers, compared to seven for GCU.
UCLA got out of the gates slowly in the second half as well, falling behind by 12 (46-34), as Grand Canyon opened the final stanza with a 9-2 run. But a three-pointer by Thea Lemberger and a long jumper from Rhema Gardner brought the Bruins to within three (50-47) with 9:12 remaining, culminating a 13-4 run by UCLA. Gardner hit huge shots for the Bruins, scoring eight points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting night. Lemberger fouled out at the 5:27 mark of the second half, long after Lauren Holiday was disqualified (14:10 of the second half). Lemberger finished the game with a team-high 15 points.
That forced Nyingifa, a senior forward, to run the point for the Bruins, who trailed 53-51 with 5:27 left. Nyingifa scored a layup and converted a traditional three-point play to give UCLA its first lead of the game at 56-54 with 3:55 to go. Back-to-back scores by junior Luiana Livulo capped a 9-1 run and gave UCLA its largest lead of 60-54 with 1:23 left. Livulo ended the game with 11 points and six rebounds. The Antelopes scored six straight points to tie it at 60-60 with 0:15 remaining, setting up Fields' game-winning heroics.
Judy Jones led Grand Canyon with game-highs of 22 points and 11 rebounds. Johnna Brown (12 points) and August Touchard (11 points) rounded out a trio of Antelopes that scored in double figures.
The Bruins outshot GCU for the game, 44.4% to 38.5%, marking the first time they have pulled off that feat this season. UCLA lost the battle of the boards, 35-34, but only commited two turnovers in the second half, and won that category, 16-12.
The Bruins will face North Carolina State tomorrow at Noon (ET)/9:00 a.m. (PT) in the fifth-place game.
Grand Canyon vs. UCLA