LOS ANGELES -- UCLA used its depth to repel a late rally by a tired Saint Joseph's team, sending the 16th-ranked Bruins into Pac-12 play with two straight victories.
Thea Lemberger tied her career high with four 3-pointers in scoring 20 points in a 73-65 victory over the Hawks on Monday. Atonye Nyingifa added season highs of 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Bruins (9-2). They've won seven of their last eight and open conference play on Friday at Oregon."It's always good to end preseason with wins, but we're focused on a new season and just getting better," Lemberger said.Erin Shields scored career-highs of 24 points and six 3-pointers, for the Hawks (8-5), who had their three-game winning snapped in their first visit to Pauley Pavilion. They beat the Bruins last year in the teams' first-ever meeting in Philadelphia. They fell to 3-1 on the road."It was hard," Shields said about the wave of fresh bodies UCLA kept sending. "You constantly had to communicate. You have one or two breakdowns that end up in scores."Lemberger was a combined 0 for 6 from long-range in her last two games. But she hit thee 3's in the first half, then opened the second half with another. That sparked a 10-4 run and produced the Bruins' largest lead of the game, 48-36."I was taking the same shots I'd been given the last two games," she said. "I was encouraged by the coaches to keep shooting."UCLA coach Cori Close pointed out that two of Lemberger's 3s came on offensive rebounds by Nyingifa."These are the kinds of effort that doesn't show up in the stat sheet," she said.The Hawks twice rallied to get within one point in the final 5:57. Natasha Cloud stole the ball and scored on a fastbreak layup the first time. After Nyingifa made one of two free throws, Sarah Fairbanks made one of two from the foul line to leave the Hawks trailing 61-60.The Bruins forced an offensive foul, sending Kacy Swain to the line, where she made both free throws to key their final spurt."We practice these kind of situations, get a stop and a score," Nyingifa said. "We just executed."UCLA closed the game on a 12-5 run, making 10 of 12 free throws. The Bruins controlled the boards, 42-33, including a 25-16 edge on the defensive glass."Our coaches have been telling us just crash the boards," Nyingifa said. "It gives our team a second chance."The Hawks traveled cross-country for the game after wrapping up two wins in their own tournament, which ended Saturday."We had one day to prepare for a team like this," coach Cindy Griffin said. "I think we wore down at the end."The Hawks missed four shots in the final 1:07, including two 3-pointers by Shields."We showed a lot of fight, got some turnovers in transition," Griffin said. "We had it within one. We just missed a couple shots there and we started to foul a bit too early."