March Madness: UCLA beats Sacramento State, will play Oklahoma

Karishma Osborne wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Pauli Pavilion just yet.

The senior guard led UCLA to a 67-45 upset over No. 13 Sacramento State in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, giving the No. 4 Bruins their final chance to play in front of their home crowd this year.

After the Sooners beat No. 12 Portland 85-63 on Saturday, UCLA will face No. 5 seed Oklahoma on Monday at 7 p.m. PDT.

Osborne showed the all-around skill that could make her a high WNBA draft pick this season with 11 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Forward Emily Bessoir had 14 points and eight rebounds, while freshman Kiki Rice had a team-high 15 points, including 10 points in the first quarter, which equaled Sacramento State’s total in the first frame.

UCLA (26-9) is now 7-0 in first-round NCAA Tournament games under coach Corey Close. Monday’s win would send UCLA to the fifth Sweet 16 of Close’s 12-year tenure and the first for his current players.

The lack of post-season experience is primarily a result of the pandemic, which canceled the 2020 NCAA Tournament for Osborne and Camryn Brown, freshmen on a team that was ranked in the top 11 all season. The following year, the Bruins were eliminated in the second round of a bubble tournament in the San Antonio area due to COVID-19 protocols.

Osborne expressed surprise at the opportunity to hold a “regular” tournament this year, considering his post-season experience unique. That’s what she came to UCLA to achieve, and on Saturday she made the long wait worth it.

Osborne was teeing up with his career-high in rebounds by halftime, pulling down nine boards with six points and four assists as the Bruins took a 17-point lead at the break. She recorded that many blocks for just the second time this season and, defensively, served as one of the primary players guarding Sacramento State star Khalijah Dean.

The Big Sky MVP, who averaged 21.1 points per game, was held to 11 points on three-of-19 shooting. The transfer from Oakland contributed six rebounds and five assists as center Isnele Ntabou led Sacramento State with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

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