LOS ANGELES (AP) — For three quarters, Lauren Betts couldn't miss. Then senior Charisma Osborne stepped up in the fourth to hold off upset-minded Princeton.
Betts scored a career-high 22 points on 9 of 9 shooting from the field and made all four of her free-throw attempts and No. 3 UCLA held off the Tigers 77-74 on Friday to avoid the upset bug among the top 10 teams in the AP women's poll.
Only No. 1 South Carolina and the Bruins haven’t lost yet.
“It shows you about the growth of our game,” UCLA coach Cori Close said of this week's string of upsets. “There are so many more good players and good teams. How awesome is that? You’ve been seeing that on the men’s side for a long time.”
The Bruins (4-0) got their toughest test after opening the season with three blowouts in which their average margin of victory was 43 points.
“This game forces us to a new level of toughness. I don’t think we’ve been tough enough with our attention to detail,” Close said. "It lulls you to sleep when you score 90 points a game and you have these blowout games that offense can cover you.”
Osborne scored 13 of her 21 points in the fourth for UCLA. Kiki Rice added 13 points and Gabriela Jaquez had 11 points.
“We did a great job but UCLA had a couple more things in their bag and made some big shots,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said. “I knew Charisma would make some big plays.”
Betts didn't take a shot in the fourth quarter. The Stanford transfer had 10 rebounds to help UCLA control the boards, 38-27.
“I’m just really proud of how our team came out today,” Betts said. “I wouldn’t be scoring if they weren’t finding me.”
The Tigers (2-1) were led by Kaitlyn Chen with 24 points and Skye Belker with 20 points. Chen is a senior from nearby San Marino and Belker is a freshman from Los Angeles. Madison St. Rose added 15 points and freshman Mari Bickley had 10.
“There’s no hanging our heads,” Berube said. “I thought we really competed for 40 minutes and had an opportunity to win a game against a very, very good team. We have a very good team so there was never a doubt that we’d be in this game and fighting to the end.”
The Tigers fell to 3-31 all-time against nationally ranked teams, but they didn't go away easily.
Chen and Bickley combined to score six in a row for a 66-64 lead in the fourth, when it was a two-point game most of the way.
Osborne made a 3-pointer and the Bruins made 9 of 10 free throws for a 76-72 lead.
“In that moment Riz was on fire so we had to keep giving her the ball,” Betts said.
The Tigers closed to 76-74. Chen missed a jumper and Osborne picked up her fourth foul on St. Rose, who made both free throws. The Tigers fouled Rice, who made the first and missed the second with 5 seconds left. Chen wasn't close on a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Princeton: The Tigers are looking to make back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and they withstood the pressure down the stretch on the road. Chen, the Ivy League player of the year last season, enjoyed rare support on an opposing court playing in front of her hometown fans.
UCLA: The Bruins kept their cool when it came down to the finish after their veteran leader Osborne wasn't much of a factor early. They'll need to cut down on turnovers (16) with No. 8 UConn looming.
Princeton: Visits San Diego on Sunday in the third of five straight away games.
UCLA: Plays No. 8 UConn on Nov. 24 in the first of two games in the Cayman Islands.
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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball