COLUMBUS, Ohio — Aaryn Ellenberg scored 27 points from the perimeter and Joanna McFarland handled things inside with 20 points and 16 rebounds to lead Oklahoma past UCLA 85-72 on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament – earning a trip back to the Sooners' home state for the regional.
Sixth-seeded Oklahoma (24-10) will face No. 2 seed Tennessee (26-7) – a 68-52 winner over Creighton – at Oklahoma City in a regional semifinal Sunday.
Sharane Campbell added 19 points and Nicole Griffin had 10 for the Sooners, who never trailed after a 15-3 first-half spurt.
Atonye Nyingifa had 18 points, Markel Walker 14, Jasmine Dixon 13 and Alyssia Brewer and Thea Lemberger 10 apiece for third-seeded UCLA (26-8), which fell to 11-12 in NCAA tournament play.
The game was a rematch of each team's second game this season, when UCLA came to Norman, Okla., and beat the Sooners 86-80 on Nov. 14. In that game, the Bruins had bludgeoned the Sooners with their inside game, outrebounding them 56-34 and turning 24 offensive boards into 23 second-chance points.
But on this night, the Sooners fought on relatively even terms inside and outscored the Bruins 33-6 from 3-point range, hitting 11 of 27 to UCLA's 2 of 12. Three times in the last 3 minutes, it was McFarland who grabbed offensive rebounds to take time off the clock and add to the lead.
Down 40-20 late in the first half, the Bruins closed with a 7-2 run and scored eight of the first 11 points in the second half to tie it briefly at 45.
But then Campbell hit a 3, McFarland made a free throw and Ellenberg tossed in a 3 from at least five feet behind the arc to put Oklahoma back up 52-45. The lead swelled to eight when Griffin hit a foul shot.
After the teams traded baskets over the next 2 1/2 minutes, Ellenberg raced down the floor in transition and hit a 3, pushing the lead back to 10 with 12:19 remaining.
The advantage remained at or near 10 points until Ellenberg came off a pick out high and hit nothing but net on a 3 for a 74-60 lead with just 4:31 left. UCLA never got closer than nine points again.
The Sooners are making their 16th trip to the NCAA tournament and their 14th in a row.
Ellenberg came in with a school-record 107 3-pointers this season, adding to her school-record 276. Amazingly, the 5-foot-7 junior with the slight build shoots 40 percent behind the arc.
Down 18-15 midway through the opening half, the Sooners sprinted away.
They scored on five consecutive possessions – including three 3-pointers and another three-point play – in a 15-3 run. McFarland was the key to the spurt with consecutive 3s. The first came from the right corner and the next trip down the floor she took a step toward the hoop from the extreme left corner with her defender falling down. She then stepped back and swished the shot.
After a Bruins miss, Nicole Kornet popped in another 3 to make it 30-21.
Later in the half, McFarland, who had 13 points by half, was poised to shoot a 3 from the right wing when UCLA's Mariah Williams reached around her and tipped the ball. Undaunted, McFarland collected it and made another 3. Moments later, Ellenberg dribbled to her left and flipped up a stop-and-pop from 15 feet to make it 35-25, the Sooners' biggest lead.
The Bruins scored seven of the final nine points of the half to cut their deficit to 42-37 at the break.
Ellenberg had 12 at intermission, hitting 2 of 5 3-pointers, while McFarland was perfect on all three of her attempts. That was the difference in the first 20 minutes, with Oklahoma outscoring UCLA 18-3 behind the arc, hitting 6 of 15 to the Bruins' 1 of 6.
Nyingifa had 12 and the bruising Dixon 11 for the Bruins, but many of their other top players were largely ineffective. Brewer was 0 for 2 from the field with one rebound and Walker was just 1 of 7 from the field with three turnovers.
In the earlier meeting, the Bruins led by a point at halftime and then stretched the lead to 18 points before the Sooners went on a 27-11 run to cut it to 80-78 with 54 seconds left. Dixon, Walker and Lemberger hit 6 of 8 free throws to preserve the lead.
Less than a month after that game, Oklahoma lost senior guard Whitney Hand – considered perhaps its best player – and had to fight hard the rest of the season in the Big 12 to make the big tournament.
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