Bruins hold off the Golden Eagles in overtime; crack top 25
A couple of women’s collegiate basketball teams that came into the Bad Boys Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis (B4A) Women’s Tournament unranked gave fans in attendance a thrilling encounter yesterday afternoon inside the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.
The game had to go into overtime before a winner was decided, but in the end it was the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins who emerged victorious in their maiden trip as a team to The Bahamas. The Bruins capitalized off a couple turnovers in the extra session, got deep penetration and assists in the lane from senior guard Charisma Osbourne and a couple of key baskets down the stretch to record a 66-58 overtime win over the upstart Marquette Golden Eagles in the B4A Women’s championship game on Monday.
The Bruins, now sporting an unblemished 5-0 win/loss record, managed to crack the Associated Press’ Top 25 Rankings by halftime, coming in at number 20, while the Golden Eagles (5-1) are right on the outside looking in.
“We didn’t play our best basketball today, especially for the first 20-25 minutes, but it was so good to see so many different people stepping up and making plays. When adversity comes, it’s just a matter of when, and I’m so proud of their response in the hard moments,” said Bruins’ Head Coach Cori Close. “We still have a lot of improvement to do but I’m really proud of them – to come here and win three games on three straight days is not easy.
“We’ve talked to our whole team about needing each other, and on different nights, we always say it in the locker rook, sometimes me, sometimes you, but it’s always us. You have to maintain a ready mindset and a selfless mentality. We know that we have a great combination and that we are building our chemistry and we know that it starts with great leadership.”
For the Bruins, it was their seniors who stepped up in the extra session. Osbourne had a basket and a couple assists, senior guard Camryn Brown had a steal and a layup and then followed that up with another layup, and graduate transfer Gina Conti knocked down three out of four free shots.
Osbourne didn’t shoot the ball well, knocking down just four of 16 shots and was 0-for-4 from distance, but came through when her team needed her the most.
“For me, I think I was trying to focus on defense – that was a huge part of our game tonight,” she said. “We are such a close team and we trust each other so much as teammates and as sisters. Others came in and hit big shots and that is what helped take us over the top today.”
Brown said her focus was on making a game-changing play in the overtime session.
“My coach was like you’re super long and you have to have active hands, so that was kind of my focus,” she said. “That was my constant thought process going into overtime. That was all I was really thinking about.”
Conti, who had some big shots for her team in the second half, said they are coming together as a unit.
“We are building chemistry. We came to The Bahamas on a business trip and we did it together. This is only the beginning and I’m so excited about the rest of the season for this team.”
Conti had 16 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field. Osbourne added nine. It was actually freshman guard Kiki Rice who led them in scoring with a game-high 18.
The Golden Eagles were led by 15 points from senior forward Chloe Marotta. Junior forward Liza Karlen added 12 and senior guard Jordan King and freshman guard Mackenzie Hare added 10 apiece. King, one of the leaders of the team, fouled out at the start of the overtime session.
“We’re not all smiles because we fought hard and got to the championship game. We know that we could win these games and compete against anyone, and that is our mindset going into the rest of the season,” said Marotta. “The trip was awesome. We didn’t get to see much of The Bahamas but our families being down here was amazing. We had a large crowd here and that was just awesome to see. The support was just wonderful.”
Golden Eagles’ Head Coach Megan Duffy said she was really proud of the entire Marquette program and what they were able to achieve during the tournament. The Golden Eagles defeated the nationally number three ranked University of Texas Longhorns on Saturday and came back and beat the Gonzaga University Bulldogs on Sunday.
“I thought our toughness and grittiness was good. We have to give UCLA a lot of credit – they made tremendous plays when they had to. Their execution on both sides of the ball was very impressive and for us, we just came up short,” said Duffy. The Golden Eagles coach added that turnovers were crucial and it is something that they will look to correct going forward. They had 24 turnovers in the game compared to 16 for the Bruins.
“We knew that we were going to turn over the ball at some points but some were critical and led to easy baskets for them,” she said. “We’ll go back, toward the end of the week, take a couple days off, and figure out how to clean up those self-inflicted mistakes. I will say this – the pressure that UCLA put on us for 45 minutes was intense so we have to give them a lot of credit for how they disrupted us. In the overtime session, they got a a couple quick baskets and Jordan King got her fifth foul. I think we lost a l’il bit of momentum at that point.”
The Bruins had a shot to win in regulation, but Brown missed a shot in the lane in the waning seconds and then missed a putback attempt as the buzzer sounded. Marotta had the game-tying shot, an up and under basket, with 19 seconds remaining in regulation, knotting the game at 53. No team led by more than eight points in the highly competitive game. The Golden Eagles had a seven-point lead early, and the Bruins responded late.
Bruins’ Coach Close had nothing but high praise of the Marquette program.
“They are tough, they execute and thev are really well-coached and really disciplined,” she said. “They beat a top five team to advance and they are a really good basketball team. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them down the road in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Tournament.
“Today we had to dig down deep and focus on what we needed to do. We still have a lot of improvement to do. We have to be able to get a few possessions better every day – just be a hard-working selfless team that is going to be able to do whatever it takes for us to be successful.”
Close said they had a fantastic time in The Bahamas and appreciate the love and support that was shown to them.
“It’s been tremendous. The tournament is incredibly well-run and the warmth of the people has been spectacular. There has been excellent competition and it was a great tournament. It’s one of the most well-run tournaments that I have been a part of,” she said.
Golden Eagles’ Coach Duffy echoed those sentiments.
“We’re incredibly appreciative of all our people in our Marquette program, the tournament director and her team and just the people here,” said Duffy. “We were treated first-class and we truly appreciate that. We had awesome conversations about the island and life here and we truly enjoyed ourselves. Despite the disappointing loss this afternoon, we are so grateful for being able to experience this tournament.”
In the third-place game, Gonzaga held on to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers, 73-72..