UCLA lands highest women's NCAA tournament seed in school history, but falls short of No. 1

Living up to her name this time of year has been agonizing for Cori Close.

Her UCLA women’s basketball teams have made five appearances in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. They’ve gone to one Elite Eight, matching the furthest run of any team in school history other than the 1978 bunch that won the AIWA championship.

The Bruins are still waiting for that big breakthrough under the coach who is nearing the end of her 13th season.

Their next push starts Friday or Saturday at Pauley Pavilion, when the second-seeded Bruins (25-6) will face 15th-seeded Cal Baptist (28-3) in a first-round game in the Albany Region. It represents the highest seeding in school history for UCLA but was not the top seed the team coveted.

Close, once again.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Bruins will get to host first- and possibly second-round games. Should UCLA get past the Lancers, it would face either seventh-seeded Creighton or 10th-seeded Nevada Las Vegas in the second round.

Buoyed by the playmaking of point guard Kiki Rice, the toughness of center Lauren Betts and the scoring savvy of veteran guard Charisma Osborne, the Bruins had won six consecutive games before falling to rival USC in double overtime during a Pac-12 tournament semifinal.

There is reason to believe that UCLA could be on the verge of its deepest NCAA tournament run. This could be Close’s deepest and most well-rounded team, with four starters averaging double figures in points and sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez adding grit and defense off the bench.

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