LOS ANGELES (AP) — This wasn’t a pretty win, but it set up UCLA to earn a high seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Michaela Onyenwere scored 16 points and Japreece Dean added 12 to lead the ninth-ranked Bruins to a 62-52 victory over Colorado on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion.
With a win over Utah on Sunday, UCLA would secure the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.
“Honestly, I don’t think it means much to me,” Deans said. “I know it’s better for us in the Pac-12 and who we play, but I’m not too focused on where we are.”
No. 3 Oregon won the Pac-12 Conference title for the third consecutive year and earned the top seed in the postseason tournament. If Stanford and UCLA both win Sunday, they would have identical 14-4 conference records and the Bruins would win the tiebreaker.
UCLA (24-4, 13-4 Pac-12) played well defensively, holding Colorado to 23 points in the first half. The teams combined for 36 turnovers.
Colorado made more mistakes, unforced and otherwise, with 19 turnovers — including six in the first quarter. The Bruins were sloppy as well with 17 turnovers but had control of the game throughout in bouncing back from a 74-68 loss at Washington five days earlier.
“I didn’t like how we turned the ball over in the second quarter,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “But I really liked our response. After the first two in the third, we only turned it over six times the rest of the half. That’s much more characteristic of who we are. I do like the 18 assists. We haven’t had that in a while, and I’m confident we’re going to take care of the ball better.”
UCLA had a 31-23 halftime lead and got off to a good start in the third quarter with a 9-0 run — on baskets from four players — to build a 42-27 lead with 5:32 left. Dean also took a big charge early in that spurt and Charisma Osborne hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. Dean made a layup for a 15-point lead, the largest of the game.
“I thought the first quarter won it for them and lost it for us,” Colorado coach JR Payne said. “After that first quarter, I thought we were really competitive. We picked up our aggressiveness, and I thought we defended more aggressively in the second, third and fourth quarters. We rebounded in a way that was competitive even though they beat us on the glass. But I thought we came out flat, dull, tired. I don’t know what it was.”
Mya Hollingshead had 22 points for Colorado (16-12, 5-12), which has lost 11 consecutive games in the series.
Colorado was coming off its most impressive win of the season against No. 11 Arizona, but the Buffaloes were cold from the start.
UCLA built a 20-8 lead during the first quarter as the Buffaloes shot just 27.3% from the field. Colorado had 12 turnovers in the first half.
“We knew that defense is our anchor,” said UCLA freshman Camryn Brown. “When we lock in on defense and we’re super energetic on the defensive end, it calms us on the offensive end and makes our shots a lot easier.”
Colorado stayed in the game in the first half with nine second-chance points, while UCLA had none. But the Bruins led by as many as 14 at 24-10 on a pair of free throws by guard Natalie Chou.
The Buffaloes had won two of four overall after losing seven of their previous eight games.
ASIAN HERITAGE NIGHT
Chou scored 10 points off the bench and added four rebounds and three blocked shots on Asian Heritage Night at UCLA. Chou grew up in Texas without many Asian American basketball players as role models, she has said. Her mom, Quanli Li, played for the Chinese National basketball team and is Chou’s skills coach. Chou hopes to inspire other Asian American girls to play basketball.
Colorado: The Buffaloes want to play well over this final weekend to get the best possible seed for the Pac-12 Tournament, so they’ll need to take care of the ball Sunday.
UCLA: The Bruins are already guaranteed a top-four seed and a bye in the conference tournament, so the goal is to sweep the homestand and be playing well.
Colorado: Plays its final Pac-12 regular-season game at USC on Sunday.
UCLA: Hosts Utah on senior day Sunday, the final tuneup before the Pac-12 Tournament.
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