No. 2 UCLA women keep guard up in victory over Oregon State

With four rotation players listed 6-foot-2 or taller, UCLA called its post depth its “super power.” But the Bruins showed Sunday they have more in their utility belt than just strength down low.

Strong guard play from Charisma Osborne and Kiki Rice led the second-ranked Bruins to a 65-54 victory over Oregon State at Pauley Pavilion. While post players worked against Oregon State star Raegan Beers, Osborne, a fifth-year guard, had 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals while Rice, a sophomore point guard, had 13 points and six rebounds with three assists.

“They’re the reason we came out on top,” said coach Cori Close, who also included Londynn Jones’ 12 points.

Read more: Plaschke: Disappearing Mick Cronin melts down amid another UCLA collapse

One of three remaining undefeated teams in the country, UCLA (14-0, 3-0 Pac-12) extended its best start to a season since going 16-0 at the beginning of 2019-20 . Oregon State, which entered the weekend 12-0 for the second time in school history, got swept by the L.A. schools, losing to USC on Friday.

Forwards Lauren Betts and Angela Dugalić had their hands full with Beers, who had 21 points and five rebounds to lead the Beavers. Oregon State’s leading scorer is the only player to win the Pac-12 freshman and sixth player of the year in the same season and is her team’s only player averaging double figures. After her third 20-point performance in the last four games, no other Oregon State player had more than Talia van Oelhoffen’s 10 points.

Beers capped a 9-0 run for the Beavers (12-2, 1-2 Pac-12) early in the fourth quarter that whittled UCLA’s 16-point lead down to seven. Oregon State pulled to within six with a three-pointer by Timea Gardner with 3:30 remaining.

But showing the maturity required of a team with championship aspirations, UCLA didn’t blink. Jones dashed into the lane for a layup. Osborne drilled a three-pointer. Betts’ layup with 2:07 remaining sealed it for UCLA, which led by 13 after a quick 7-0 run.

“When you play in the best conference in the country, you're going to have things exposed,” Close said. “You're going to have habits, bad habits exposed, so what do you do with that? … The one really good thing we did today was we responded. It was not our best game, it was not our best execution of the scouting report, but we found a way to respond.”

Read more: No. 9 USC rallies late behind JuJu Watkins to beat Oregon

While UCLA made it through the first two weekends of conference play unscathed, the path remains treacherous. The Pac-12 has five teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25 this week, including UCLA’s next three opponents — No. 9 USC, No. 5 Colorado and No. 15 Utah — with each game coming on the road.

The Utes, led by reigning Pac-12 player of the year Alissa Pili, were upset by unranked Arizona in overtime on Sunday, showing the depth of the conference that is projected to send eight teams to the NCAA tournament.

The Bruins are on track to be one of those tournament-bound teams. Yet on Sunday, with months to go until Selection Sunday, Osborne and Close were still lamenting botched assignments on defense and mental lapses. It’s that mindset that the Bruins are counting on to carry them to March.

“Our focus hasn't been on our long-term goals, it's been just on taking it game by game, practice by practice, getting better each week,” Rice said. “I think we've done a great job of not losing sight of the goal each day.”

Get the best, most interesting and strangest stories of the day from the L.A. sports scene and beyond from our newsletter The Sports Report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.