BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)UCLA responded to a demand for staunch defense and relentless rebounding.
However it was Michaela Onyenwere’s steady second-half scoring that proved too much for Indiana to overcome on Sunday.
The junior forward scored 19 of her game-high 25 points after halftime and No. 10 UCLA stayed unbeaten with a 68-58 road win over the 12th-ranked Hoosiers.
”Obviously the reality is I have Michaela and they don’t,” Bruins coach Cori Close said. ”That’s the big X-factor.”
Indiana coach Teri Moren agreed.
”She kind of took her team on her back and just made all the plays down the stretch, especially when we were chipping away at the lead, trying to get the lead or even get tied up,” Moren said. ”She was the one who always came back and hit the big shot.”
Before leaving on a two-game road trip that began with a 59-50 win at Georgia on Thursday, Close was disappointed in how they defended and rebounded. UCLA (11-0) forced Indiana to miss 14 consecutive shots during a 16-0 run in the first half.
UCLA never trailed after building a 14-point lead in the second quarter.
”It’s a really big statement,” Onyenwere said.
Especially after last year, when Indiana won 67-65 at UCLA on Jaelynn Penn’s 3-pointer.
”Last year, credit to them, but they took it from us on a last-second 3,” Onyenwere said. ”I think that was kind of the talk of the team, the whole preparation for Indiana. Everybody responded great. We were locked in and poised.”
When Indiana (10-2) rallied to a one-possession deficit, Onyenwere responded. Onyenwere was 11 of 20 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds. UCLA had a 49-44 edge on the boards.
”I knew our team was going to have to grow, especially in the areas of defense and rebounding,” Close said. ”I thought we were going to have to earn a new level of toughness if we were going to come into this building.
”I don’t think we earned our ranking until this week.”
Senior guard Japreece Dean, one of three senior returnees from a team that reached the Elite Eight last year, scored a season-high 24 points for the Bruins.
It’s the first time in Indiana women’s basketball history that two top-12 teams have met on the Hoosiers’ home floor.
”We can guard their offense for the first 25 seconds, it was just the second-half opportunities that they would get,” said Indiana’s Brenna Wise, referring to UCLA’s 18 offensive rebounds. ”We had to keep them off the boards.”
The Hoosiers, who advanced to the NCAA tournament’s second round last year and have only one senior regular, managed just one double-digit scorer as freshman Mackenzie Holmes scored 13.
”We just couldn’t get over the hump today,” Moren said. ”It seemed like when we made a run, they made a timely shot to keep us at bay.”
Indiana made just 20 of 58 shots (34.5 percent), and also missed 10 foul shots in 24 attempts. UCLA shot just 24 of 72 (33.3 percent) from the floor.
UCLA: A final win before beginning Pac-12 play was the first against a ranked opponent this season. That’s important when considering the Bruins are one of four Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 10, so league play looks to be more challenging.
Indiana: Despite dropping to 2-2 against Top-25 teams, the Hoosiers expect to benefit come tourney time from playing a tougher schedule. The Hoosiers knocked off No. 5 South Carolina 71-57, lost to No. 2 Baylor 77-62 and won 58-45 at No. 21 Miami.
UCLA: Hosts USC on Sunday.
Indiana: Hosts Michigan State on Saturday.
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