Sophomore guard Charisma Osborne (20) scored a career high of 32 points last season (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

UCLA Women’s Basketball will face Wyoming on March 22nd, and Head coach Cori Close feels this is the most wide-open bracket she has seen in Women’s basketball. The lady Bruins secured the No. 3 seed, and they are ready to give it all to have a chance at winning.

There isn’t one team in the bracket that’s undefeated. The growth of Women’s basketball is making the tournament is even more unique, according to Close. 

“As we have the growth of the game and it continues on that front, I think it creates more and more opportunities.

This is the first NCAA tournament Osbourne has gotten to participate in due to the pandemic. She said, “It was super exciting seeing our names up there and seeing who we’re going to play.”

Natalie Chou, who transferred to UCLA from Baylor in 2019, is experiencing her first tournament with the Bruins. Chou said, “I’m excited that I can play on this big stage with my girls. I know throughout this whole season, this is what we’ve been working towards. I can’t wait to perform.” Texas is home for Chou, and her mom will be able to watch in the stands. 

The Pac-12 demanding schedule has prepared UCLA for March Madness. The diverse style of play and the talent pool brings intense all through the season. Close says, “I feel really great going into the tournament because of the way the Pac-12 conference prepares us.” She states, “The elite coaches that force us to adjust and the elite talent in our conference. It’s no secret that’s why the Pac-12 teams have done so well in the past several tournaments. We couldn’t ask for more.”

Osbourne has faced some great guards, and she said it has prepared her and elevated her game to the next level. “Facing those guards, you have to be really intentional. There are really no shortcuts. I think that will help me in the tournament.”

After the loss against Stanford, Osbourne and Close met and the team watched film. They realized their pace and purpose were not there. Osbourne says, “We are working to keep our emotions off the floor and stick together as a team. I think that will really help us go far in the tournament.”

The lady Bruins rested and the week off was need according to Close. “After having one of the most physical Pac-12 tournaments, this week off was needed for recovery.”

Close loves framing her team’s day with a growth mindset. She states her players have the choice to discipline or default and limit distractions. With all the restrictions, the athletes have shown incredible toughness because they haven’t had the typical college athlete experience this year. 

“The stronger mentality teams are the ones who are going to thrive in the environment. I’m really thankful that we’ve been strict as we have because it will be less of an adjustment for us,” states Close.

Chou is dedicating this tournament run to the three seniors for UCLA. “They mean so much to me in different ways. I want to go out and celebrate them and play our best basketball.”

Osbourne and Chou embrace women coaches, and they believe representation matters. The young sophomore states, “I think it’s cool for young women to see people who look like them. It gives a lot of confidence to be in these positions when they get older. It’s cool to have women coaches.”

The Texas native Chou says growing up; her mom was the coach. “I had a lot of women coaches in my life. It’s been a good experience as a female athlete to have great leaders to look and relate to.”

Chou aspires to become a coach one day in the future.