As the old adage goes, basketball is a game of runs – Cori Close even pointed out that inevitability as recently as Sunday.
On Friday, the Bruins couldn't keep pace in the final moments of a textbook game of runs.
No. 19 UCLA women's basketball (3-1) dropped its first game of the season to Kent State (4-0) at the Gulf Coast Showcase on Friday, losing 75-69 in Estero, Florida. Using a 9-0 first quarter run to take an early lead, the Bruins allowed a 14-2 run to go down big before the half, and the runs didn't end there.
Trailing 45-38 midway through the third quarter, UCLA strung together a 12-2 run to steal the lead back with buckets from forward IImar'I Thomas, guard Jaelynn Penn, guard Charisma Osborne and guard Dominique Onu. That run extended into the fourth quarter too, and the Bruins were up by as many as six points after being down by as many as nine not much earlier.
The back-and-forth runs were constant, but the two teams still managed to stay within single digits through the first three quarters and almost the entire fourth. The Golden Flashes finally broke through to go up by 10 points in the final moments, capping off a one-sided fourth quarter that featured the longest and most definitive run of the afternoon.
Kent State stole back its lead with a 9-0 run in a two-minute span early in the fourth, but UCLA answered with five straight points by guard Natalie Chou to go up two again. Osborne drilled a jumper of her own a minute later, and the Bruins had weathered the Golden Flashes' rush to still lead 61-58 with 4:36 left on the clock.
That's when Kent State took things to the next level, going on a 12-0 run in which it shot 4-of-5 from the field with four free throws while UCLA went 0-of-7 and never even got to the line.
Osborne added two jumpers for five points in the final 15 seconds to make the final score look a little closer and take hold of the team lead with 21 points. Before those two garbage time makes, the Bruins had gone 1-of-13 from the field in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter.
The high-scoring performance from Osborne came in her return from an ankle injury she suffered Nov. 18 against CSUN, and she wound up being the lone UCLA player with a positive plus/minus at +1. With her back in the lineup, coach Cori Close once again had an eight-player rotation and three guards to work with again.
Even with the reinforcements on the perimeter, the Golden Flashes shot 7-of-13 from deep in the first half. Things weren't much better down low either early on, as Kent State was winning the points in the paint battle 12-4 at the break.
The Bruins stayed relatively even in those two categories in the second half, but not consistently enough to power through the Golden Flashes' big runs and come away with the comeback victory. Thomas, who was averaging 20.3 points per game entering Friday, scored just four and was not her usual dominant post presence self.
With the loss, UCLA moves into the losers' bracket of the Gulf Coast Showcase and will face South Dakota State at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.