Sophomore Taylor Palmer used a pair of threes in the final four minutes to help the West Virginia women's basketball team seal a 63-54 upset over No. 25 UCLA, Friday, in the opening round of the Woodland Hills Holiday Inn Classic hosted by Cal State Northridge.
"It's good for us to get away and play some tough competition," coach Mike Carey said. "We need to play some good teams going into the BIG EAST. It was a sloppy game on both sides and UCLA has a couple players hurt, which really hurt them, but we have a really young team and to come on the road and beat someone like UCLA is a big win for us. We did what we had to do and we have to build on it."
The Mountaineers (3-1) held a 13-point lead with 8:50 remaining in regulation, but the Bruins (2-2) were able to cut the deficit down to only two points, 48-46, with just under four minutes to play. Palmer hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to five, which was answered by UCLA's Moriah Faulk's three, but a Christal Caldwell three-point play sparked a 10-3 run down to the final 1:17. UCLA was able to come within five, 59-54, with 33 seconds, but the Mountaineers held on for the upset.
WVU was in control of the game from the 14:01 mark of the opening half, leading by as many as 10 in the first half, with UCLA coming within four points at halftime, 24-20. The Mountaineers went on a 7-0 run to open the second half and never looked back.
Palmer paved the way with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4-for-8 from downtown. Behind Palmer, Asya Bussie and Jess Harlee each had eight points, while Caldwell chipped in seven.
Brooke Hampton tied a career-best nine assists, which she set in the last outing against North Carolina Central. Linda Stepney also had four assists.
Defensively, the Mountaineers dominated on the boards, out-rebounding UCLA 47-26. Caldwell led all players with 11 boards, while Ayana Dunning and Crystal Leary each had 10 rebounds. Palmer led with three steals, helping WVU to nine total steals and forcing 18 UCLA turnovers.
UCLA's Rebekah Gardner led all players with 19 points and Atonye Nyingifa was held just below her 12.7 points per game average to 10 points. Nyingifa and Thea Lemberger led the rebounding efforts for the Bruins with five boards each.
"Tonight was all about toughness and being mentally focused," UCLA coach Cori Close said. "West Virginia was the aggressor and they were tougher than us, they had more focus down the stretch and we paid the price."
The Mountaineers shot 40.4 percent (21-52) from the field, while limiting UCLA to 36.5 percent (19-52). WVU made only 4-of-15 (26.7%) of its 3-pointers, while UCLA made 5-of-14 for 35.7 percent. Foul shots helped WVU as it converted 17-of-22 (77.3%), while the Bruins earned 11 points off 19 attempts (57.9%).
The Mountaineers will advance to the championship game, Saturday, Nov. 25 at 10:30 p.m. ET. WVU will face the winner of tonight's game two between Cal State Northridge and Colgate.