The Bruins had competed in all three of their games in Florida over the weekend, but this time, they finally closed one out.
No. 19 UCLA women's basketball (4-2) defeated St. John's (3-4) in the seventh-place game at the Gulf Coast Showcase 73-65 early Sunday morning. The Bruins took an early lead and let the Red Storm back into it, only to end up surging ahead at the end to avoid finishing in last place at the tournament.
Guard Charisma Osborne spearheaded that early charge, scoring 12 points in the first quarter en route to a team-high 19 for the game. Osborne even hit two 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the second quarter, giving her 18 points in her first 11 minutes on the court.
Osborne's efficiency fell off after the hot start, along with the rest of her team, as she missed her final eight shots after starting 5-of-7 from the field. After the Bruins took a 12-point lead early in the second quarter, they hit just 6 of their next 24 attempts.
The Red Storm couldn't close the gap much in the second quarter, despite shooting over 50% in the opening half, going into halftime still down seven. St. John's came out of the gates aggressive in the third, however, eventually taking their first lead since the opening minute mostly via free throws.
A 17-9 run to open the second half helped the Red Storm go up by one, and six of their points came from the charity stripe. The Bruins were only able to slow the bleeding with their two post players, as forward IImar'I Thomas scored seven and forward Izzy Anstey scored two in that stretch.
Thomas hit another layup to give UCLA its lead back, giving her nine points in the third quarter alone, and her team never trailed again.
It isn't as if the Bruins suddenly ran away with it, though, as the Red Storm tied things up on multiple occasions in the final quarter. What made Sunday different than the losses to Kent State and South Dakota State earlier in the tournament is that UCLA didn't go ice cold and dig itself into a hole in the second half this time around.
The Bruins hit their last four shots in the third quarter and first two shots in the fourth, answering three-straight makes for the Red Storm in that span, including a buzzer beater to end the third. Thomas added another eight points in the fourth quarter, and behind her efficient final minutes, UCLA hit four of its final five field goals before sealing the deal at the line.
Osborne and Thomas were tied atop the box score with 19 points apiece, with the former kickstarting the win and the latter locking it in late. Osborne also led the team with 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals, still contributing after her shot fell off down the stretch.
Guard Dominique Onu chipped in a career-high 10 points off the bench and guard Natalie Chou had 10 points of her own.
UCLA will have the week off before returning to Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 5 for a game against San Jose State. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.