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UCLA women's NCAA tournament run ends sooner than expected

The Bruins, seeded third in the Oklahoma City Regional, are defeated by sixth-seeded Oklahoma, 85-72, at Columbus, Ohio, in their second tournament game.

March 25, 2013|By Diane Pucin
  • Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg brings the ball up court as UCLA's Mariah Williams defends during the Sooners' NCAA tournament victory over the Bruins, 85-72.
Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg brings the ball up court as UCLA's… (Jay LaPrete / Associated…)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was too much.

Too much of Oklahoma guard Aaryn Ellenberg, who seemed able to pop free from anywhere.

Too much of senior forward Joanna McFarland, who was willing and able to push and shove with the bigger UCLA Bruins.

And too much of Oklahoma's loud confidence, combined with too little of what the Bruins had done well so often — defend and rebound.

UCLA, seeded third in the Oklahoma City Regional, was upset by sixth-seeded Oklahoma, 85-72, Monday night at St. John Arena.

Mariah Williams, Jasmine Dixon, Markel Walker and Alyssia Brewer have earned 93 wins, second-most by a senior class in UCLA women's basketball history.

But getting the 94th was too much.

Ellenberg, a 5-foot-7 junior, had 27 points and was 6-of-13 from three-point range, and senior forward Joanna McFarland contributed 20 points and 16 rebounds, an effort that left the red head red-faced but smiling.

UCLA junior Atonye Nyingifa led the Bruins (26-8) with 18 points and eight rebounds.

The win advanced Oklahoma (24-10) to the Sweet 16 and a meeting against second-seeded Tennessee in Oklahoma City.

"Oh, it's tough," second-year UCLA Coach Cori Close said, struggling to speak. "First of all, Oklahoma was the better team tonight. They did a great job of spreading us out and playing to their strengths. So give them credit for the game plan and relentless spirit to win this game.

"But it doesn't take away all the growth experienced by these seniors. These seniors have beaten more top-50 opponents than any other team in our history. I don't want the hurt of this loss to take away from the growth."

After the teams traded leads on almost every possession early in the game, Oklahoma pulled ahead, 24-20, on a three-point play from guard Sharane Campbell and, after a missed layup by the Bruins' Walker, a three-pointer from the corner by McFarland.

Only a Dixon free throw interrupted the Sooners' offensive flurry. McFarland hit another three, from the other corner, in front of Close, who stamped her feet while yelling for a traveling call. After a miss from UCLA point guard Thea Lemberger, Sooners guard Nicole Kornet hit a long three-pointer to give the Sooners a 30-21 lead.

That advantage grew to 10 points when Ellenberg's 18-footer made it 35-25.

But by halftime, with the help of two free throws by Brewer and two baskets by Lemberger, including a three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left, the Bruins were behind by only five, 42-37.

They tied the score at 45 with a Dixon layup, but an Ellenberg three-pointer with 12:31 left put the Sooners ahead, 60-50. Ellenberg made another three with 11:02 left that gave Oklahoma a 63-52 lead, and Ellenberg gave a little wave as if to say goodbye to the Bruins.

After the game, as the teams were passing each other in the interview room, Close said to Oklahoma c Coach Sherri Coale, "You were better than us."

But this season, in which the Bruins finished third in the Pac-12 Conference and upset California in the conference tournament, has paid off for Close, who has received commitments from Jordin Canada of Los Angeles Windward, the top junior girls' point guard in California and one of the best in the nation, and junior guard Recee' Caldwell from Texas.

But the future wasn't something the seniors wanted to think about. "This just hurts," said Dixon, who is from Long Beach. "It just hurts."

Twitter: @mepucin

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