Charisma Osborne powers UCLA women to dominant win over Sacramento State

Charisma Osborne wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Pauley Pavilion just yet.

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

UCLA will face No. 5 seed Oklahoma on Monday at 7 p.m. PDT for a spot in the Sweet 16 after the Sooners defeated No. 12 Portland 85-63 on Saturday.

Osborne flashed 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 that equaled Sacramento State’s total score in the first frame.

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

The lack of postseason experience is mainly the result of the pandemic, which canceled the 2020 NCAA tournament for Osborne and Camryn Brown, who were 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 the bubble tournament in the San Antonio area because of COVID-19 protocols.

Reflecting on her unique postseason experience, Osborne marveled at the opportunity to have a “regular” tournament this year. It was what she came to UCLA to achieve, and on Saturday, she made the long wait worth it.

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Osborne was flirting with her 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 multiple blocks for just the second time this season and, defensively, served as one of the primary players guarding Sacramento State star Kahlaijah Dean.

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

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