No. 20 UCLA beats Marquette for Battle 4 Atlantis title
Freshman Kiki Rice scored 18 points and Gina Conti added 16 to help No. 20 UCLA hold off Marquette 66-58 in overtime to win the Battle 4 Atlantis championship
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — UCLA took down an AP Top 25 team with a marquee name, earned a ranking of its own, then finished off a big 24-hour span by hoisting the Battle 4 Atlantis championship trophy.
Freshman Kiki Rice scored 18 points and Gina Conti added 16 to help the 20th-ranked Bruins hold off Marquette 66-58 in overtime in Monday's title game, capping a three-day performance that ended with them dancing around on the court and pointing to their fans in the stands at the Atlantis resort.
Much of the attention on the Bruins (6-0) had centered on their No. 1-ranked recruiting class, but it was the veterans who took over down the stretch — tournament most valuable player Charisma Osborne (fourth year), Camryn Brown (fourth year) and Conti (graduate transfer from Wake Forest).
“If they don't show the newbies the way, we're not going to be consistent enough,” coach Cori Close said. "They've been in these moments, they know.”
Osborne had just nine points on 4-for-16 shooting after two big tournament games, but she scored the first basket of OT on a tough runner to put the Bruins ahead to stay. She also assisted on Brown's layup for a 62-55 lead late.
Afterward, several of Osborne's teammates predicted her MVP win by putting their arm around her and pointing at her as the announcement was being made during the postgame trophy presentation.
In all, Osborne, Conti and Brown combined to score eight of UCLA's last nine baskets starting from late in the third quarter.
“I want to give credit to my teammates and coaches just for continuing to encourage me throughout the whole game," Osborne said.
Chloe Marotta scored 15 points to lead the Golden Eagles (5-1), and Jordan King had just 10 points before fouling out early in overtime.
“I thought we lost a little bit of momentum,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of King's exit. “Didn't totally lose it, but just possessions changed a little bit ... so we were just a little bit rattled in those first couple of minutes.”
The Bruins and Eagles threw the second-ever Atlantis women's tournament off its projected course with upsets. First there was Marquette beating then-No. 3 Texas in Saturday's first round, then UCLA followed with a romp against then-No. 11 Tennessee in Sunday's semifinals.
A year after a 1-vs-2 matchup between South Carolina and Connecticut for the title, this year's championship paired two unranked teams at tipoff — though the Bruins entered the new AP Top 25 during the game and played the second half as a ranked team.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles were picked to finish sixth in the Big East, but beating Texas and then Gonzaga in the semifinals brought them close to cracking the AP Top 25. This tough three-day performance might push them over the hump next week.
“We came in, we played some really good competition and we proved ourselves,” Marotta said.
UCLA: The Bruins entered Atlantis with the nation's top-ranked recruiting class starting to settle into the college game, along with strong play from Osborne. But this was a reminder of the value of veterans to guide talented youngsters like Rice, the nation's No. 2-ranked recruit.
Brown finished with four points but had six rebounds and five steals, including one for a runout basket for a 57-53 lead in OT.
“I couldn't think about if I was tired (going into OT), I was just thinking about my hands being active,” she said.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles host Saint Francis on Sunday.
UCLA: The Bruins host Jackson State on Friday before making a trip east to play at No. 1 South Carolina next week.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25