UCLA downs Arizona in Pac-12 semis with free throws

The UCLA Bruins women’s basketball team did something they didn’t do the first time they played the Arizona Wildcats: they made free throws.

And that was pretty much the difference in which team would advance to the Pac-12 Conference title game to play top-seed Stanford on Sunday.

Making 82 percent of their free throws in a semi-final game played at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, UCLA was able to scrap by Arizona with a 58–49 win. As a team, the Bruins made 19 of 23 of their charity stripes.

UCLA women’s basketball team defeated the Arizona Wildcats, 58-49, in a Pac-12 Tournament semifinal played at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Courtesy photo

When the game mattered, the Bruins dug in and made their free throws when it counted. In the fourth quarter alone, UCLA connected on 13 of 14 free throws. Despite getting outscored in the final period (21–20), the Bruins earned their place in the title game by icing their free throw attempts.

Michaela Onyenwere, who produced a game-high 24 points for the Bruins, made all six of her free throws she attempted in the fourth quarter. After the game in a postgame press conference, Onyenwere talked about how important it was to make those freebies.

“I was able to drive to the basket and get those fouls,” Onyenwere said.“Obviously, when you go to the free-throw line you have to make those shots because those are free shots. I think we really harped on…look, those are free shots. You need to make them.”

One reason why making those free throws was so important to the Bruins was because they had a horrific shooting night from the field. UCLA made just 18 of its 55 field goal attempts against Arizona, a paltry 32 percent. If you take away those 19 free throws, the Bruins would be watching the tournament final instead of playing in it.

“When it gets to these games, get to the postseason, those points are so, so important,” Onyenwere said. “So our ability to knock those down is super huge, and I’m glad that we’re able to do that tonight.”