Last season, one of the most impressive runs in women's basketball was that of UCLA's run to the Sweet 16. Led by Head Coach Cori Close, UCLA is loaded with returning talent that was so vital for their run last season. After making the Pac-12 Championship and a good run in the tournament, they'll look to run it back this year with their young and talented roster.
Charisma Osborne (Kuh-riz-MUH) returns after leading the team in points, rebounds and steals last season. She was projected to be a first round pick in the 2023 WNBA draft, but instead decided to use her last year of eligibility and return to school. Last season she averaged 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals, and now she is averaging 15.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.8 steals. While averaging similar numbers, she is getting help from the talent around her. Sophomore guard Kiki Rice was one of the best players in year one, and she's only gotten better. Last year she became the first UCLA freshman since Jordin Canada to have 400+ points, 100+ assists, and 100+ made free throws in a season. This year she is averaging 12.6 points, 5.1 assists, and leading the team in steals at 1.9 per game. Rice and Osborne created a formidable duo that gives opposing defenses nightmares. Londynn Jones has taken the biggest step from her first year and she is thriving starting for the Bruins. The sophomore is averaging 12.9 points (16.7 in the last three games), 1.1 steals, and has shooting splits of 39.4/39.1/81.6% this season. She also makes 2.7 three pointers per game, ranking first in the Pac-12. Their returning players stepping up has been key to their success, but the Bruins have become a popular destination via the transfer portal, including landing one of the most popular to enter it.
Sophomore Center Lauren Betts started her career at Stanford and established herself as one of the most dominant post players in the country despite limited action. She played behind All-American Cameron Brink, and desired more playing time and more opportunity to grow as a top option. Betts transferred to UCLA, and immediately put the nation on notice with her play and impact. This season she is averaging 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. She also leads the country is field goal percentage shooting 68.3% from the field. Betts has been a focal point for how the Bruins perform having a 3.1 win shares which is third best on the team. This means it's all but a guarantee UCLA will win if Betts plays, because three win-shares is equal to one team win. With irony striking as Betts has missed the last four games due to an undisclosed medical reason, other players have stepped up.
Angela Dugalić (Dug-UH-lich) has stepped into a starting role this season after previously coming off the bench. Like Jones and Betts, she has risen to the challenge of her role elevation and improved her game. The junior forward from Serbia is averaging 9.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game this season. There are many reasons why UCLA is such a dangerous team, and the returning players stepping up in bigger roles is one of them. However, stepping up to help the Bruins succeed doesn't necessarily mean a role change, or even being a starter.
Gabriela Jacquez (HA-kez) has made a name for herself this season. If there was a sixth player of the year award for college basketball, Jacquez would be among the favorites to claim that honor. The sophomore forward has been excelling coming off the bench so far in her young career. This season she is averaging 10.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, with shooting splits of 48.2/24.5/71.4%, all improvements from her freshman campaign. The sister of Miami Heat rookie Jaime Jacquez Jr. (HY-may HA-kez) has molded into a secret weapon this season, with so much firepower already in the starting rotation.
UCLA has definitely put themselves on the national stage this season with their share of signature wins. Those include beating number 6 UCONN, number 13 Ohio State, number 6 USC, and number 3 Colorado. They'll be tough competition for whoever they matchup with, especially once Betts returns. One strong area for the Lady Bruins beyond their talent is youth. After the season's completion, Osborne is the only one expected to enter the WNBA draft, with the majority of their core being sophomores. This gives UCLA both a development advantage and recruiting advantage. They have already capitalized on this with Betts' sister, Sienna committing to UCLA last November. It's safe to say since making the PAC-12 championship last season, the 9th ranked Lady Bruins are establishing themselves as one of the elite women's programs this season and beyond.