SALT LAKE CITY (AP)The No. 8 UCLA Bruins were in unfamiliar territory.
On a historic winning streak, the Bruins have rarely trailed this season but found themselves down by 3 to Utah in the third quarter.
”We weren’t being tough. We were doing things we don’t usually do and we weren’t sticking to our principles,” Michaela Onyenwere said.
Onyenwere and the Bruins returned to form when they turned up their defensive pressure, which led to an offensive onslaught.
Onyenwere scored 18 points and UCLA routed Utah 84-54 on Friday night to improve to 15-0, extending the best start in school history.
”All of the sudden, we started getting stops, making their passes difficult and now we’re attacking the paint on offense,” said UCLA coach Cori Close, who is 13-0 against the Utes.
Charisma Osborne added 17 points to help the Bruins go to 4-0 in the Pac-12.
Julie Brosseau had 10 points for the Utes (7-8 , 0-4). They have lost four in a row.
The Bruins struggled to find openings in the Utah defense until they began extending their own defense, disrupting dribble handoffs and forcing turnovers. UCLA then got transition opportunities and found open shots by moving the ball.
”We started denying the post players and we showed a lot more ball pressure. That led to us pushing the ball and that’s when we’re at our best,” Osborne said.
UCLA shot 81% in the fourth quarter to turn it into a blowout.
Trailing in the second half, UCLA had a 23-3 run bridging the third and fourth quarters that made it 61-44 with 6:37.
Down nine at the half, the Utes started the second half with a stunning 15-2 run that was capped by Brynna Maxwell’s pull-up 3-pointer.
”We had momentum but everything changed in a moment,” Utah Lynne Roberts said. ”The score doesn’t indicate the battle that this game was.”
MICHAELA IN THE KEY IS KEY
Both of UCLA’s big runs were keyed by Onyenwere, the Bruins’ leading scorer.
”We need to get the ball to Michaela early, often and everywhere on the floor. But, at the same time, she’s better when we mix up those touches,” Close said.
Onyenwere said once they got transition points, they didn’t have to sweat the chance they’d snap their streak.
”No stress at all. I think that it’s cool and just a testament of how hard we work,” Onyenwere said. ”We stay poised.”
UCLA: The Bruins have won 13 straight against Utah. They needed some timely defense to jump-start their offense and get rolling. The Bruins looked like a smooth-running machine as they began moving the ball and getting out on the run. ”We’re a totally different team when we run,” Close said.
Utah: After losing by a combined 66 points to No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Oregon State, the Utes lost big to their third straight Top 10 opponent but gave the Bruins a much tougher test for nearly three quarters. Utah’s zone forced the Bruins outside and limited the Bruins for awhile, but the Utes’ 19 turnovers were too much to overcome.
UCLA: At Colorado on Sunday.
Utah: Hosts Southern California on Sunday.