UCLA guard Kiki Rice celebrates after scoring during the second...

UCLA guard Kiki Rice celebrates after scoring during the second half of a second-round college basketball game against Creighton in the women's NCAA Tournament Monday, March 25, 2024, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

LOS ANGELES — Early in the third quarter, Kiki Rice knew the pressure was on her if the Bruins wanted to keep their hopes alive of getting to the Women's Final Four for the first time.

The sophomore point guard ended up delivering in the most pressure-packed time of the season.

Rice scored 13 of her 24 points in the third quarter as second-seeded UCLA rallied for a 67-63 victory over seventh-seeded Creighton in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday night.

“At this point of the season, it’s one game and you’re out,” Rice said. “I just knew that I needed to do whatever I had to do to help my team win, whether that was feeding the ball to Lauren (Betts), scoring, doing whatever, and I think I was just focused on that.”

Lauren Betts added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bruins (27-6), who trailed by 10 points early in the third quarter before coming back and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.

UCLA will face third-seeded LSU in an Albany 2 Regional semifinal Saturday afternoon. Top-seeded Iowa and fifth-seeded Colorado are in the other semi.

UCLA struggled with Creighton’s off ball screens and transition game during the first half, as the Bluejays were able to get many easy baskets.

Creighton forward Emma Ronsiek (31) dribbles past UCLA forward Angela...

Creighton forward Emma Ronsiek (31) dribbles past UCLA forward Angela Dugalic (32) during the first half of a second-round college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament Monday, March 25, 2024, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Creighton was 13 of 22 from the field in the first half but only 9 of 28 in the third and fourth quarters as the Bruins turned up the defensive pressure.

“At halftime, I really laid into them about the choices. We don’t give up that many points in a half to anybody. So we needed to just get back to doing things with our defense. I knew if we could get enough stops we would score enough points,” UCLA coach Cori Close said.

Betts, back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s game against California Baptist due to a foot injury, had 14 points in the first half before Creighton put multiple defenders on her. That allowed plenty of room for Rice to drive into the lane and score.

Lauren Jensen scored 20 points and Morgan Maly added 18 for the Bluejays (26-6).

UCLA forward Gabriela Jaquez, middle, works for a rebound against...

UCLA forward Gabriela Jaquez, middle, works for a rebound against a group of Creighton defenders during the first half of a second-round college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Los Angeles. Credit: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Creighton came in averaging 8.8 3-pointers per game, but were 7 of 16 from beyond the arc. It made 16 3s in Saturday night's win over UNLV.

“I thought they really defended on a different level in that second half and we couldn’t really get much going, in particular in the fourth quarter, and probably thought we got a little tired,” coach Jim Flanery said. “I thought Cori probably did a better job of using her bench and keeping people fresh.”

Creighton led 44-34 early in the second half before UCLA fought back. The Bruins got back into the game with a 20-7 run that included 11 points by Rice.

The game was tied at 56-all after three quarters before the Bruins scored seven straight to start the fourth as part of a 9-2 run.

Creighton led 20-19 at the end of the first quarter and then dominated the second quarter. The Bluejays scored the first eight points in the period and were 10 of 16 from the field as it went into halftime with a 42-34 lead. Emma Ronsiek led Creighton with 11 of her 14 points coming in the quarter.

“Credit to UCLA. They made life difficult for us especially in the second half. Disrupting our offense, making it hard for us to catch and even when we did get a shot off it was contested. So they definitely ramped it up on the defensive end,” Jensen said.

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John Legend and his children along with former actor and former UCLA great Michael Warren were among the fans in attendance at Pauley Pavilion.

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: The Bluejays made the tournament for the third straight year. They have six seniors, but Flanery thinks most may return since they have an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19.

UCLA: Charisma Osborne scored just five points in her final game at Pauley Pavilion, but she had five rebounds, four assists and a steal.

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