The last time the Bruins took a trip east for an invitational tournament the week of Thanksgiving, they ended up 0-3.
They are now two-thirds of the way to matching that after getting upset for the second-straight day Saturday.
No. 19 UCLA women's basketball (3-2) trailed for the entire second half and lost 76-66 to South Dakota State (3-4) in the losers' bracket of the Gulf Coast Showcase, and will now play Sunday morning to avoid finishing in last place. The last time the Bruins played in a full-on, neutral site preseason tournament was the 2018 US Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, losing to North Carolina, Kentucky and South Florida in St. Thomas after entering the event on a three-game winning streak.
This year's team is now in the same boat, with its perfect 3-0 start to the season now at risk of flipping to .500 by the time they return to Westwood.
At first, it seemed like UCLA would be able to bounce back from getting upset by Kent State in the first round on Friday.
The Bruins were up 18-12 after one quarter, having shot 42.9% from the field and making their first three 3-point attempts while the Jackrabbits shot 26.7% from the field and 1-of-6 from deep. Forward IImar'I Thomas, who came off the bench for the first time this season, hit a layup in the opening minute of the second to make it 20-12 UCLA, but that's when South Dakota State started heating up from long range.
The Jackrabbits went 4-of-6 from 3-point range in a five-minute span, a period in which the Bruins only attempted four field goals and missed them all. Three made free throws and an eventual layup by guard Kayla Owens kept it from being a 16-0 run, but the damage was done and South Dakota State had taken the lead. After UCLA tied it up on three separate occasions toward the end of the second quarter, they eventually allowed a 5-0 run and went into the half down 37-31.
The score remained close through the entire third quarter, as the Bruins outshot the Jackrabbits 45.5% to 36.4% from the field and won the frame 15-12, even closing the gap to as little as two points in the final minute.
Forward Paiton Burkhard came out firing from deep in the fourth, though, and she drilled two 3-pointers to get South Dakota State's lead back up to nine points.
Thomas, who didn't score a single point in the third quarter, started to come alive in the fourth, hitting all five of her shots to drop 11 in that frame alone, and she single-handedly got the deficit back to five points with 5:43 to play. The Jackrabbits continued to answer each and every one of Thomas' buckets down the stretch, however, and by the time guards Natatlie Chou and Charisma Osborne saw their first shots of the quarter finally fall in the final minute, it was too little, too late.
South Dakota State scored 10 points off of exclusively free throws in the final three minutes and slashed any hopes of a comeback on the other bench.
Thomas finished with a team-high 18 points and crossed the 2,000-point threshold for her collegiate career in the process, while Osborne and guard Jaelynn Penn chipped in 15 each and Chou and guard Dominique Onu each scored 8.
UCLA will return to the court in Estero, Florida, on Sunday at 8 a.m. for the seventh-place game of the Gulf Coast Showcase against the loser of St. John's versus Charlotte.