The Bruins weathered the fight and released a collective exhale, defeating the Huskies for their first victory since Dec. 5.
UCLA women's basketball (6-4, 1-1 Pac-12) played tight with Washington (5-4, 0-1 Pac-12) late into the third quarter on Friday night, but relentless offensive energy from graduate guard Jaelynn Penn and graduate forward IImar’I Thomas earned the Bruins their first Pac-12 win of the season by a score of 63-48.
Penn finished the night with 16 points, while Thomas scored more than anyone else on the court with 25 points of her own.
9 inches - the difference in height between Thomas and Washington's center Nancy Mulkey. Matched up against one another all night long, Thomas played around her height disadvantage, using her strength in the post and therefore disrupting Mulkey's offensive rhythm.
Four minutes into the contest, Mulkey tried to force a shot off against the smaller Thomas, but the transfer from Cincinnati allowed little room with the ball missing the rim altogether.
Thomas' defensive toughness caused Mulkey to only score three points in Friday night's action.
However, the Bruins route to their first win since Dec. 5 started slowly in the first quarter. Shooting 3-13 from the field and not earning a trip to the foul line, the blue and gold fell behind to the equally cold Huskies, 9-7 to end the period.
Slow back-and-forth basketball crept in the second quarter as well with the Bruins and Huskies answering one another at each blow.
Down 15-12, redshirt junior guard Chantel Horvat forced a turnover, scored a two-point bucket, and on the next possession, grabbed the rebound and drew an over-the-back foul call. Horvat continued her full effort basketball with the Bruins down one, getting fouled in the post and converting two free throws to allow UCLA to take the lead 18-17.
With one minute left in the half, Horvat scored once again, blowing by the defender and tying the game at 22. The Australian's efforts were not enough to grab UCLA the lead, with the hosts falling behind 27-24 as the blue and gold jogged to the locker room for halftime.
Junior guard Charisma Osborne led the Bruins in scoring at the break, scoring six of her 11 points in the game, two quarters into Friday night's action.
The Bruins stormed back four minutes into the third quarter, relying on Penn.
Two steals and two buckets later, Penn brought the score to 32-32. Just moments later, Thomas pushed her way into the paint, scored and helped the Bruins overcome the halftime deficit.
After a 3-pointer from the Huskies, Penn ran through an open lane and scored against Mulkey to retake the lead. On the next offensive possession, Penn slashed into the paint and pulled up for a fadeaway shot, scoring over the extended reach of Mulkey.
Dagger after dagger, the Bruins pulled away near the end of the third quarter. Thomas scored back-to-back layups bringing UCLA's lead to 44-37 and with six seconds left, Osborne launched from beyond the arc - pushing the lead to 10 just before time expired.
The Bruins continued to extend their lead in the fourth quarter, with 12 of Thomas' points coming in the final frame.
As the clock neared zero, the weight on the Bruins' shoulders was lifted as they won for the first time since UCLA's 112-33 win over San Jose State.
UCLA won the rebounds battle, collecting 32 rebounds compared to Washington's 22 rebounds. Thomas grabbed a game-high eight boards during the contest.
On the defensive side of the game, the Bruins forced four shot-clock violations - three of which occurred with the score within three points.
UCLA will return to play Sunday at 12 p.m. against Washington State to attempt winning two-straight conference matchups for the first time since February 2020.