UCLA scores first 11, wins 66-49 over Stetson

Updated at: 03/23/2013 3:09 PM
By RUSTY MILLER

(AP) COLUMBUS, Ohio - Nirra Fields led UCLA’s balanced attack with 13 points and the Bruins rolled to a 66-49 win over Stetson on Saturday in an NCAA first-round game.

The third-seeded Bruins took an 11-0 lead and were never threatened by the 14th-seeded Hatters.

Jasmine Dixon added 10 points and 10 rebounds and Atonye Nyingifa had 10 points and eight rebounds for the spread-the-wealth Bruins. They received an at-large bid after finishing third in the Pac-12 and falling 51-49 to No. 4 Stanford in the conference tournament final.

Victoria McGowan had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Stetson (24-9), with Sasha Sims adding 13 points.

The Bruins (26-7) advance to the second round to meet sixth-seeded Oklahoma (23-10), a 78-73 winner over Central Michigan in Saturday’s first game. UCLA and the Sooners will play Monday night at Ohio State’s St. John Arena, with that winner advancing to the regional in Oklahoma City.

The second-round matchup won’t be the first meeting the year between the teams. On Nov. 14, the Bruins traveled to Norman, Okla., and beat the 11th-ranked Sooners 86-80 with Thea Lemberger scoring 18 points and Oklahoma native Alyssia Brewer adding 15 points and 16 rebounds. The Bruins outrebounded the Sooners 57-33 in that game, matching their total with 33 offensive rebounds.

The Sooners have had the Bruins on their minds ever since, saying after the first-round win they were cheering for a rematch.

There wasn’t much doubt after the Bruins built an early lead against Stetson.

Nyingifa scored five quick points in an 11-0 burst to start the game while the Hatters were missing their first eight shots from the field, including going 0 for 5 from behind the arc.

They didn’t get on the board until Cherisse Burris hit a layup at the 14:44 mark.

Substituting liberally, coach Cori Close had eight players score in the first nine minutes while the Bruins built a 23-7 lead.

They were on top 36-20 at the break, with Stetson struggling to keep up. The Hatters hit just 9 of 34 shots (27 percent) in the first 20 minutes, including 1 of 14 3-pointers.

Down as many as 24, the Hatters drew to 16 points on a Sasha Sims’ bucket with 5:37 left, but the Bruins came right back with two scores to push the lead back to 20 a minute later. McGowan’s 3 with 1:01 left got them within 15.

As usual, the Bruins relied on their balance. At one point in the waning moments they had three players with 10 points apiece, one with eight and another with seven. They came into the game with six players averaging between 8 and 12 points.

The Bruins are making their 12th NCAA appearance. They have lost in the second round in their last three trips, in 2011, 2010 and 2006. UCLA has not won more than two games in the tournament since advancing to the West Regional finals in 1999 before losing to Louisiana Tech, 88-62.

Close, in her second year as a head coach after serving as an assistant for 18 years at UCLA, Cal Santa Barbara and Florida State, hasn’t shied away from going deep on her bench all season. She’s used 11 different starting lineups.

UCLA competed in the Pac-12, where it regularly jousted with nationally ranked Stanford and California. The Bruins were 4-6 against ranked teams this season.

Stetson, which had won its last five games, was the tournament champion of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Coach Lynn Bria’s team reached a school-record 24 wins while going 14-4 in league play.

The Hatters were playing in their third NCAA tournament. In each of the first two trips, they went as a 16 seed and had to play a powerhouse in something less than a neutral environment. They lost to top-seeded LSU 70-36 in 2005 and to No. 1-seeded Tennessee 99-34 two years ago.

There was a sparse crowd because the teams traveled from Los Angeles and DeLand, Fla., in addition to the host team, Ohio State, not making the tournament field.

___

Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)