ATHENS, Ga. -- The numbers might say otherwise, but UCLA coach Cori Close believes her team has underachieved on the boards in route to a 10-0 start.
But she was delighted with a 50-37 rebounding edge in the Bruins’ 59-50 win over Georgia early Thursday.
Michaela Onyenwere had 19 points and nine rebounds to pace the Bruins. They also got 12 points and 14 rebounds from Lauryn Mille, her third double-double of the season. UCLA led by 14 points at halftime of the game that started at 11 a.m.
“Rebounding has been a strength in past years,” said Close. “But I think it is an area we have been a great underachiever in this year. I have challenged them. We knew we had to dominate the rebounding and grow in toughness.”
Gabby Connally led Georgia (7-4) with 16 points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter to make it 17-15.
UCLA’s defense locked down the Lady Bulldogs in the second quarter. Georgia scored on only two possessions as reserve center Malury Bates made a layup with 3:11 remaining in the half and then hit a pair of free throws a minute later. UCLA, meanwhile, scored 16 points in the quarter to build a 33-19 halftime lead.
“That is a common theme for us,” lamented Georgia coach Joni Taylor. “It can’t take a whole quarter for us to figure it out.”
Taylor said UCLA pushed Georgia’s offense further out on the floor.
“This is what we will see in the SEC,” said Connally. “We have to execute our offense better and we have to get stops on the defensive end.
Onyenwere scored 15 of her points in the first half, when Miller pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Bruins dominated the boards in the first half, 31-17. UCLA had 11 second-chance points off 14 offensive rebounds while Georgia managed just three offensive rebounds and failed to capitalize on any of them.
Midway through the third quarter, freshman Jordan Isaacs entered the game and sparked a brief run by Georgia. Her layup in traffic punctuated by Connally’s 3-pointer and layup cut into UCLA's lead, making it 41-32 with 4:29 to go in the quarter. But that was as close as Georgia got until the waning minutes.
UCLA: The Bruins have positioned themselves as contenders, thanks to their prowess as defenders. Onyenwere remains the key cog in their offense.
Georgia: The Lady Bulldogs remain a team in search of an identity, unable to score from the outside or match UCLA’s physicality on the boards. They have a bad habit of playing one terrible quarter per game.
Of the 7,123 who attended, about 4,500 were elementary school students from the local district released for a field trip to the game, lending a shrillness to the atmosphere. “I think we are undefeated in field-trip games,” said Close. “What a great atmosphere.”
STAT OF THE NIGHT
UCLA's 50 rebounds were a season high. The 13-rebound margin was the second highest of the year, topped only by a 48-31 edge in the season opener against Weber State.
The first seven minutes of the second quarter decided the game. UCLA scored only eight points over that stretch, but Georgia failed to score at all.
UCLA: The Bruins play at Indiana on Sunday, a noon local tipoff, but another breakfast start on California time.
Georgia: The Lady Bulldogs will host Gardner-Webb on Sunday before a brief Christmas break.
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