UCLA guard Charisma Osborne brings the ball up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Utah, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The UCLA women’s basketball team started their journey towards earning a spot in the March Madness tournament Thursday in Las Vegas by defeating 22nd-ranked Utah 67-57. The game was physical on the offensive and defensive side of the ball with both teams making plays.

“What a hard-fought game,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said to ESPN. “Incredibly physical. I think that’s the most physical game I’ve ever been a part of. They made plays. I felt like we were right there. They hit a couple of big shots. They play hard. They’re disciplined. They’re the whole package. And they have the ability to win a national championship for sure. So a lot of respect for them.”

UCLA scored more points than the Utes in every quarter and ended the game with 25 successful shots out of 52 attempts: finishing 48.1 percent from the field. They also made 47.1 percent of their three-point attempts, hitting eight out of 17 shots.

Utah had a lower shooting percentage throughout the game, managing to make only 35 percent of their shots, with 21 out of 60 attempts finding the net. Their total of 57 points was one of their lowest-scoring games this season.

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During the first half, UCLA grad student guard Charisma Osborne led UCLA with 12 points, contributing to their overall shooting success rate of 44.8 percent (13 out of 29 shots).

Even though Utah trailed behind in the first quarter, they managed to keep the game close. However, their shooting percentages remained low, averaging only 38.5 percent in the first quarter and 35.3 percent in the second. They also struggled with their three-point shots, making only four out of 14 attempts (28.6 percent) in the first half.

The Bruins were led by senior forward Angela Dugalic who tied her career-high of 17 points. Osborne also added 16 points along with sophomore Kiki Rice scoring 13.

Utah senior forward Alissa Pili scored 16 points to lead the Utes and junior guard Kennady McQueen scored 14 points. Junior Ines Vieira scored 11 points, and sophomore Matyson Wilke added 10 points and secured seven rebounds.

UCLA Head Coach Cori Close was impressed with her program’s performance as she expressed in her post-game interview.

“We found a way to win every quarter. It might have looked different, it might have been a little chaotic, but we found a way to make enough winning plays together to win each quarter and at the end of the day that’s all that matters,” Close said.

The Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament is fiercely competitive, with teams contending for victory to secure and enhance their standings in the NCAA tournament. Each game is pivotal as teams battle it out on the court, showcasing their skills and determination to hopefully come out victorious.