Both teams had scrappy moments Monday afternoon at Imperial Arena in Nassau, Bahamas, but only the No. 20 UCLA Bruins were able to use momentum to their advantage when it mattered most, as they defeated the Marquette Golden Eagles 66-58 in overtime of a Battle 4 Atlantis championship game showdown between two tournament underdogs.
The Bruins, who defeated the then-No. 11 Tennessee Lady Volunteers the day before and entered the new rankings mid-game, received key defensive plays from Camryn Brown down the stretch and a game-high 18 points from No. 2 Hoop Gurlz recruit Kiki Rice.
Brown, a senior who hasn’t contributed much in her career but has started every game this season, nearly allowed UCLA to win in regulation. First, she blocked a pass, which led to a turnover and UCLA layup on the other end that put the Bruins up 53-51 with 2:15 remaining in the fourth. With the score still at that mark and 1:25 left, she stole the ball outright, but it didn’t lead to any points. Had it resulted in a UCLA basket, perhaps overtime wouldn’t have been necessary. Instead, the Golden Eagles tied it at 53 and it was in fact Brown who missed a couple of attempts near the basket as time expired in regulation.
She would make up for it in overtime though.
One minute and 13 seconds into the extra frame, she stole the ball at mid-court, then took it in herself for an easy fast break layup that made it 57-53 Bruins. That set a tone and gave UCLA momentum it would make the most of. Brown added a layup that made it 62-55 with 1:45 to go and then tipped the ball to teammate Emily Bessoir for the defensive rebound that essentially sealed the game at 24 seconds remaining. From there, Rice went 2-of-2 at the line and her fellow UCLA guard Gina Conti went 2-of-2 to turn a four-point lead into the final margin.
So it was really Brown who fueled the victory, but others had to step up as well; Brown (five steals, six rebounds) actually finished with just four points.
Rice (seven rebounds) made a key defensive play of her own when she intercepted a pass at the 2:45 mark of OT and it led to her getting the ball back on the ensuing possession for a spin move and inside bucket that made it 60-55. Conti, meanwhile, was responsible for the layup that made it 53-51 and finished with 16 points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer of the shot clock that made it 47-46 Bruins just over a minute into the fourth. That was UCLA’s third and final 3-pointer of the contest and Conti’s lone trey. The team was 3-of-18 from beyond the arc.
After Brown made it 62-55, Mackenzie Hare of Marquette got a friendly roll on a floater and converted on a 3-point play to cut it to 62-58 with 1:23 to play. UCLA star Charisma Osborne then committed an offensive foul at 53 seconds, giving the Golden Eagles the chance to cut it to two or one. But Rose Nkumu missed a layup and Brown’s tip did the rest.
Chloe Marotta (15 points, five rebounds) was the one who tied it at 53 for Marquette (5-1, 0-0 Big East). She made a contested scoop layup with 15 ticks remaining in the fourth.
Osborne (nine points, six assists) made a difficult mid-range leaner near the left baseline to make it 51-48 UCLA with 5:06 left in regulation. Marotta answered with a three 20 seconds later.
Marquette held its largest lead of seven with 3:58 remaining in the second quarter, but the Bruins (6-0, 0-0 Pac-12) closed the half on a 9-2 run, which included a key three from Gabriela Jaquez and four points from Rice. The Bruins then went up five on a Jaquez steal turned fast break layup at the 4:46 mark of the third. The score was closer than five the entire portion of the third prior to that point and it seemed like a big momentum swing.
Instead, Marquette answered with a three from Hare and a layup from Marotta for five points in the 43 seconds following its ensuing timeout. It eventually went up 42-40 after two Jordan King free throws, which came on separate trips to the line. UCLA would tie it at 44 entering the fourth on two free throws from Rice.
Marquette upset then-No. 3 Texas in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Saturday and is now receiving 65 voting points in the AP poll. It would be No. 27 in the nation if the rankings went that far. It was an exciting run for the Golden Eagles to get to the championship game and the season looks bright for both them and the Bruins after neither received a lot of hype coming in.
UCLA forced 24 Golden Eagle turnovers, winning that margin by eight. It won steals 13-0. Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field.