LAS VEGAS (AP) — Michaela Onyenwere scored 24 points and No. 9 UCLA beat No. 11 Arizona 58-49 on Friday night to reach the championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The third-seeded Bruins (16-4) will play No. 4 Stanford, the top seed, for the conference title on Sunday.
The Bruins overcame an off-shooting night in the semifinals and staved off a late rally by Arizona (16-5), which carved into a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to get within two with a little more than a minute left. UCLA closed it out with a 9-2 run over the final 1:04.
Natalie Chou added seven points, six rebounds and three steals for UCLA, which lost 68-65 at Arizona in their lone meeting during the regular season.
Pac-12 player of the year Aari McDonald led second-seeded Arizona with 24 points.
One night after the Bruins limited Washington to a season-low 46 points in the quarterfinals, they held Arizona to its lowest output — 18 1/2 points below its season average of 67.5 per game. The Wildcats’ previous low was 59 in a nine-point win over California on Feb. 19.
Neither team came out with any sort of rhythm, as UCLA was a dismal 3 of 16 from the floor in the first quarter while Arizona shot just 4 for 10. The Bruins’ relentless pressure on the ball, led by Chou’s two steals, forced the Wildcats into six turnovers in the opening period.
But as UCLA began to find a groove, Arizona’s struggles carried into the second quarter after the Wildcats took a 13-10 lead on Cate Reese’s short jumper. They fell into an 0-for-10 drought from the floor over the final 9:13 of the first half. UCLA took advantage by shooting 8 of 14 down the stretch and using a 15-4 run to take a 25-17 lead into the locker room.
Looking to give her team a spark, McDonald struggled while taking many of Arizona’s shots on offense. She went 1 for 6 in the second quarter, and 2 for 9 in the first half. Only one other Wildcats player had two attempts in the second period, and nobody else took more than three shots in the opening half.
McDonald finished 8 for 24, while no other Arizona player had more than seven attempts.
Arizona: Senior forward Sam Thomas came in shooting 53% from 3-point range over her last nine games. She took just two shots from deep and made one.
UCLA: Charisma Osborne had scored in double figures in 12 straight games and brought a 17.8 scoring average into Friday night. The sophomore guard finished 1 of 12 from the floor and had seven points in 35 minutes.
Arizona: Awaits its NCAA Tournament bid.
UCLA: Will face top-seeded Stanford in Sunday’s championship.
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