UCLA teammates Lauren Betts (51) and Kiki Rice (1) defend agaist LSU guard Mikaylah Williams (12) during the second half of a Sweet 16 college basketball game in the NCAA Tdefend agains LSU guard Mikaylah Williams (12)tournament in Albany, N.Y. Saturday, March 30, 2024. LSU won 78-69. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Everybody has a chapter they wish did not end. Unfortunately, the 2023-24 season came to a close for UCLA after falling short to LSU Saturday afternoon in the third round of the tournament. The Tigers defeated the Bruins 78-69.

Both teams displayed championship-type performances. UCLA started the game off by scoring consistent shots in the paint led by sophomore center Lauren Betts. Betts was one of the four players to finish the game with double figures as she captured her 13th double-double this season. At the end of quarter one, the score was tied 15-15.

LSU and UCLA had their moments in the second quarter, but the Bruins had more difficulty putting points on the board. Sophomore guard Kiki Rice carried UCLA throughout the quarter, especially with her two crucial shots around the three-minute mark decreasing the lead from six to two (26-24). Although the Bruins managed to catch up, LSU finished strong going into halftime with a 34-27 margin.

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The third quarter was the most entertaining period of the game. There were constant lead changes and exciting moments. Senior guard Charisma Osborne hit a critical shot around the two-minute mark to spark a short Bruins lead. Once again LSU kept competing, finding a way to end the quarter in yet another tie: 48-48.

Neither team let up in the final quarter of play. The Bruins were led by Rice and Betts keeping them within scoring distance of LSU.  Junior center Angel Reese came up huge, blocking multiple shots before she fouled out late in the game. Rice also fouled out when her team needed her most. What settled the back and forth between both teams was free throws. When the game was on the line the Tigers made key free throws and finished the game on a 14-2 run.

UCLA Head Coach Cori Close commented on their struggles at the end of the game.

“They got the shots that they wanted down the stretch, and we didn’t get the shots that we wanted. We did not execute the way that we needed to, and that’s one that’s going to sting for a really long time for me,” Close said. (Espn.com)

Top performers from LSU were sophomore guard Flau’jae Johnson (24 points and 12 rebounds), junior guard Aneesah Morrow (17 points), and Reese (16 points and 11 rebounds).

The key contributors for UCLA were sophomore guard Londynn Jones (14 points), Rice (14 points, three rebounds, and five assists), and sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez (14 points and five rebounds).

Reese commented on what stands out about the elite LSU team.

“We’re the good villains,” Reese said. “We’re impacting the game so much and all of us are super competitive and want to win and do whatever it takes to win. We’re just changing the game.” (Espn.com)

LSU will next face number one-seeded Iowa which they defeated in the championship last season.