Texas comes from behind to beat UCLA 72-64 in Bridgeport
BRIDGEPORT, CONN. >> Texas' goal all season has been to make it to a regional final.
Imani Boyette scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the second-seeded Longhorns to a come-from-behind 72-64 win over UCLA on Saturday in the Sweet 16.
Brooke McCarty added 15 points for Texas (31-4), which will play for the first time since 2003 in a game that could send it to the Final Four.
"They set out at the beginning of the year to get to this place, and that's all they talked about," said coach Karen Aston. "This was exactly where they wanted to be; they wanted to get one step further than last year."
Monique Billings scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for UCLA, which finishes its season at 26-9. Jordin Canada also had 20 points for the third-seeded Bruins.
UCLA led by 10 points in the second quarter, five points at the half and 54-48 after three quarters.
But Texas scored the first 10 points of the fourth to take the lead for good.
"I remember Empress (Davenport) saying it's the last quarter and it's going to show how we go out," said McCarty. "So we went out there and played together as a team, and we all bought in in the last quarter and so that's why, that's why we came out.
UCLA missed its last nine shots.
Texas will play UConn in the regional final. The top-seeded Huskies, who ended the Longhorns' season in the Sweet 16 a year ago, routed Mississippi State 98-38 in Saturday's first semifinal.
"I think we'll be more mentally prepared because of the opportunity to play them last year," Aston said. "That should be somewhat of a difference. We understand what we are up against."
The Longhorns won the game underneath, outscoring the Bruins 40-22 in the paint and outrebounding UCLA 46-40, despite trailing in that category by five at halftime.
UCLA had the early advantage in part because Texas' two big women, the 6-foot-7 Boyette and 6-5 Kelsey Lang each picked up two first-half fouls.
UCLA used a 9-0 run to take a 17-9 lead early in the game and led by six points after a quarter.
The Longhorns used a 7-0 run to cut that deficit to 27-24 before Billings answered with a hook shot from just right of the lane.
Boyette, who averages 11 points and nine rebounds a game, scored seven first-half points, but she had just one rebound at the break, two fewer than her 5-4 teammate McCarty. She picked up her third foul 40 seconds into the second half and finished with four.
"When coach put me back in, she told me not to foul," Boyette said. "That was the first thing she said. And I didn't."
The Bruins, who came into the game a perfect 21-0 when leading after 20 minutes, had a 33-28 lead at halftime.
A 3-pointer from the right baseline by McCarty, just the second for her and the team in the game, tied the score at 35. The Longhorns took their first lead since it was 2-0 on their next trip down the court on a pair of free throws by Atkins.
But UCLA responded. A fall-away jumper by Canada just before the third-quarter buzzer put the Bruins up 54-48.
"In the second half, Texas just adjusted to being more aggressive and taking us out of the sets that was working for us," said Canada. "So credit to them. That's all I could say was that they were more aggressive down the stretch."
UCLA, which won won the WNIT last season had an eight-game postseason unbeaten streak, second only to UConn. The Bruins were looking for their first national title since 1978, when they won an AIAW championship, four years before the NCAA had a women's tournament.
UCLA: The Bruins struggled this year away from home. They were 15-1 in home games and are 11-8 elsewhere. ... Starter Kacy Swain missed her eighth game with a knee injury. She had been averaging 6.6 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Bruins. The Bruins are the first of the four Pac 12 teams in the Sweet 16 to lose. Washington and Stanford advanced Friday. Oregon State played later Saturday.
TEXAS: Texas played UConn a year ago in the Sweet 16, losing to the Huskies, 105-54. ... The Longhorns have not been to a Final Four since the 2002-03 season when they also lost to UConn. ... Boyette blocked two shots, giving her 103 for the season. ...The Longhorns are now 38-27 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 13-4 when they are seeded second.