LOS ANGELES (AP)UCLA waited eight months to play basketball again. Then the ninth-ranked Bruin women had to wait another two days.
Charisma Osborne scored 31 points and UCLA took control in a dominant first quarter, going on to beat Cal State Fullerton 98-49 on Friday in the teams’ delayed season opener.
The teams were supposed to meet Wednesday, but the game was called off after an 80-minute delay because the Titans’ COVID-19 test results hadn’t come back. UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond approved paying $80 per person to test the Titans on Wednesday and again Friday, in addition to the Bruins, so the game could go on.
”It’s going to be a challenge to get our games in,” Bruins coach Cori Close said. ”It was really important that we were able to.”
Michaela Onyenwere, a preseason AP All-America selection, added 22 points and Natalie Chou had 16 for the Bruins. They had been on campus since early morning Wednesday anticipating their first game. The team came out to warm up and then sat around waiting as the delay stretched longer and longer before the game was called.
”We were definitely disappointed, but we definitely turned it around like we needed to,” Onyenwere said. ”We handled it so well. We attacked the practice after learning we didn’t have a game. This year is all about adapting.”
Amiee Book scored 20 points to lead the Titans, who were held to 34% field-goal shooting. They had 25 turnovers that led to 44 points by the Bruins.
Fullerton opened the game with a 9-4 run. Then the Bruins took over for good.
UCLA reeled off 19 unanswered points to take a 23-9 lead. The Titans were 0 for 8 from the floor and committed five turnovers while going 6:18 without scoring.
The Titans were limited to 13 points in the second quarter and trailed 46-24 at halftime.
Onyenwere and Osborne combined to score 17 of UCLA’s 29 points in the third, when the Bruins led 75-35. UCLA had a 12-0 run early in the quarter. Osborne’s total points were one off her career high.
The Titans return seven of their top nine scorers from last season’s team that went 17-14 and posted its first winning record since 1991. However, they’re looking for others to step up after Big West player of the year Raina Perez transferred to North Carolina State and senior Taylor Turney opted to sit out the season because of the coronavirus. The Bruins have just one more game before they jump into Pac-12 play with a pair of road games at the Arizona schools next week. In all, UCLA plays only three non-conference games this season.
Artificial crowd noise was pumped into Pauley Pavilion via the overhead videoboard. The Bruins cheerleaders appeared in squares on the videoboard, calling out player names and chanting. There was a recorded version of band playing the UCLA fight song. Five rows of cardboard cutouts sat in the student section, with the largest one of mascot Joe Bruin raising his furry arms.
”We didn’t even really notice the crowd noise,” Osborne said. ”We were really focused on the game plan and what we were supposed to do.”
SHE SAID IT
”This was about about joy and gratitude. We wanted to be out here to play the game we love.” – UCLA’s Close
Cal State Fullerton: Hosts UNLV on Wednesday in the first of five straight home games.
UCLA: Visits Pepperdine on Sunday in the first of three straight road games.
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