When UCLA gamers sprung out of their chairs and began leaping up and down at Sunday’s Choice Present celebration, there was some additional pleasure behind their smiles.
Not solely have been they again within the NCAA Match after lacking a bid final season, however they have been tapped to host rounds 1 and a pair of as a regional web site for the primary time since 2019. Previous to that, groups going through off at Pauley Pavilion for early rounds had turn out to be considerably of a practice.
“This present day by no means will get outdated,” coach Cori Shut mentioned. “We’ve not had a range celebration in 4 years. We’ve obtained a spirit of gratitude as we speak that we get to share this second with our household and mates, and that we get to play at house.”
The Bruins, a No. 4 seed, will play No. 13 Sacramento State – who gained the Large Sky Match for a first-time NCAA Match berth – at 8:30 p.m. PT Saturday. The 2 groups are pretty even statistically, though the make-up of their rosters is vastly totally different.
UCLA is lead by senior Charisma Osborne (15.5 factors, 5.6 rebounds and a pair of.8 assists per recreation), freshman guard Kiki Rice (11.7 factors, 4.7 rebounds and three.2 assists per recreation), and redshirt sophomore ahead Emily Bessoir (9.4 factors and 5.8 rebounds per recreation).
Their stellar forged options the opposite 4 members of 2022 No. 2 recruiting class, in addition to senior standouts Gina Conti and Camryn Brown. Every contributes balanced scoring throughout the board, which makes them a formidable unit – particularly contemplating that they’ve 498 complete group assists.
The Hornets are lead by senior guard Kahlaijah Dean (21.1 factors, 5.8 rebounds and 5 assists per recreation) junior heart Isnelle Natabou (15.8 factors, 9.3 rebounds and 1 block per recreation) and a veteran-laden roster that has coalesced to make a dramatic turnaround this season and elevate all the program to new heights.
A bonus for the Bruins is Rice, who adjusted to the school recreation shortly, and has made rising up in huge video games one in all her calling playing cards. In beating top-ranked Stanford within the semifinals of the Pac-12 Match, Rice scored 22 factors.
Expertise and starvation are the driving forces for Sacramento State, which aren’t solely using a sizzling streak, however have a variety of confidence heading right into a recreation the place they might pull an upset.
One other wrinkle to the pairing is that Shut and Hornets coach Mark Campbell are mates.
“He texted me two nights in the past predicting this matchup,” Shut mentioned. “He mentioned ‘are you able to inform the committee that you would be able to’t match up mates within the first spherical?’”
The 6 p.m. recreation options No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 12 Portland.
The Sooners, and an skilled, all-star roster, misplaced to Texas within the semifinals of the Large 12 Match final weekend. The Pilots shocked Gonzaga within the championship recreation of the WCC Match to win the auto-bid.
The pace, taking pictures acumen and depth of Oklahoma ought to give them a win, however count on fiesty Portland to make it a recreation.