LOS ANGELES — The UCLA women’s basketball team dug itself out of a halftime deficit but was handed its third loss of Pac-12 play on Sunday afternoon, falling to unranked Washington State, 85-82.
“This one will be measured by everybody else from the outside by the end score,” head coach Cori Close told reporters after the game, “but it won’t be measured that way for me.”
No. 2 UCLA (16-3 overall, 5-3 in Pac-12) was without 6-foot-7 center Lauren Betts for the second straight game, who was out due to an undisclosed medical reason, and Washington State took advantage of every open opportunity.
Betts, a sophomore transfer from Stanford, leads the team with 35 blocks this season.
Kiki Rice scored a career-high 25 points, added six rebounds and hit 11-of-12 free throws. Charisma Osborne added 20 points and five assists and Londynn Jones scored 19 points.
UCLA found itself down by 16 points at halftime after Washington State (15-6, 4-4) pulled away with an 11-0 run in the second quarter.
“They just did a really good job getting the exact shots for the exact people that they wanted,” Close said. “We needed to deny and dictate more. They just ran exactly what they wanted to do.”
The Bruins battled in the first quarter and gained an early, brief lead on a 3-pointer from Jones but Washington State scored on three possessions in a row to get back in the lead.
Rice made a layup as the shot clock expired to shrink the Cougars’ lead to 19-17 at the end of the first frame. Jones hit a three at the start of the second quarter to momentarily put the Bruins ahead.
Jones hit 5 of 9 of her signature 3-pointers, but has also had an expanded role with the Bruins lately. She added defensive pressure and boxed out in the paint to prevent rebounds.
Washington State was out-shooting UCLA 65.5% to 43.8% by the end of the half as the Bruins struggled to block shots without Betts.
UCLA athletics had no comment in regards to Betts’ status or a timetable for her return after Sunday’s loss.
“We definitely missed her presence on and off the court,” Rice said. “Defensively, especially. I remember last year against Stanford, you know, I didn’t want to drive anywhere because she’s in there. She’s just such a great rim protector.”
Charisse Leger-Walker, the Cougars’ leading scorer in the first half, left the game roughly two minutes into the third quarter due to an apparent injury and the Bruins began a slow ascent. Osborne made two straight jumpers to provide a spark as UCLA went on to outscore Washington State 23-19 in the third.
Rice scored 10 of her 25 points in the third quarter as UCLA pressed defensively to dictate the pace heading into the final quarter. Osborne hit a three and a jumper to bring the score to 74-70 and the Bruins put together another short run in the final two minutes to keep the game close.
Rice hurled a three-point attempt at the basket as time expired, but the ball bounced off of the glass.
“It hasn’t been an easy week for a lot of different reasons for everyone in this program,” Rice said. “Just knowing how hard we fought, going there today and giving our all, it meant a lot to everyone.”
UCLA is next on the road at Cal on Feb. 2, then plays at Stanford on Feb. 4.