LOS ANGELES (AP) — The emotions were running through UCLA seniors Thea Lemberger and Atonye Nyingifa on likely their final game at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday.
There was a pre-game ceremony, and more than 7,000 fans – mostly kids on a field trip – packed the stands. But the injury-depleted Bruins couldn’t go out on a high note in a 65-56 loss to No.5 Stanford.
“I think throughout the whole game I was trying to be appreciative of every moment left in this gym,” Lemberger said. “A lot of frustration. I really wanted this game. I thought we played pretty well for most of the game, and there were a few lapses where they capitalized and went on a run. Early in the first half, when we were playing well, we needed to put the pedal to the metal and get our lead and we didn’t. I was frustrated with that knowing I’m not going to play in this arena again.”
Nirra Fields led the Bruins (12-16, 6-10) with 24 points and shot 5-for-6 from 3-point range. Lemberger scored 14 points and Corinne Costa had eight points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Nyingifa, UCLA’s leading scorer at 19.1 points per game, was held to seven points on 1-for-10 shooting in her final regular season home game.
“They had laser focus,” UCLA coach Cori Close said of Stanford’s defense of Nyingifa. “She needed to touch the ball every time down the ball. Whether it was the first 10 seconds of the shot clock or the last 10 seconds, and that’s why they’re a very, very good team.”
Chiney Ogwumike scored 26 points and had 15 rebounds and Amber Orrange had 13 points as the Cardinal (26-2, 15-1) clinched its 14th straight Pac-12 regular season title outright. It had already clinched the top seed for the Pac-12 Tournament.
Stanford could come back to Pauley Pavilion next month for the NCAA tournament because the venue will host first and second round games.
“I’d love to,” Ogwumike said. “It’s so amazing playing here. First of all, it’s a beautiful facility. Second of all, they have John Wooden quotes everywhere. How can you not be inspired to play here? And we have a good tradition here in the Pac-12. And plus we’re all California people. Honestly, this is where want to get comfortable playing. We want to get used to winning here . Our road to the championship will hopefully start here, too. ”
Ogwumike also had five blocks and four steals and Mikaela Ruef had seven points and 11 rebounds as the Cardinal, which swept the Southern California schools and won its 18th straight game against the Bruins.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was pleased that her team was able to get a victory on an emotional night for UCLA.
“It wasn’t as good as I would have liked it to be,” VanDerveer said. “But these kinds of games at this time of the year are probably really good for us. This was a very physical game. I knew it would be. They’re aggressive. We need these kinds of games, so it’s good.”
Stanford pulled away with a 14-4 run midway through the second half. Ogwumike completed a three-point play in heavy traffic in the paint and then got a steal and drove the length of the court for a layup to push the lead to 56-42.
Fields made a 3-pointer to get UCLA to 56-49 with 6:48 left but the Bruins got no closer the rest of the way.
Fields kept UCLA in the game early in the second half with a 3-pointer, a jumper and a rebound putback to pull the Bruins to 44-41. Ruef helped maintain the lead with a steal and a layup, and she completed a three-point play off a nice inside pass from Orrange.
Stanford used an 11-2 run to take a 29-25 lead into halftime. Ogwumike started slow and missed five of her first six field goal attempts but led the Cardinal with nine points and seven rebounds. Her jump hook tied it at 25-25, and she gave Stanford the lead for good on a pair of free throws.
Stanford scored 20 points off 11 UCLA turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
Fields made three 3-pointers early and scored 11 of UCLA’s first 15 points but had two points in the final 14 minutes of the half. Nyingifa also missed five her first six field goal attempts in the first half as she saw frequent double and triple teams.
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