Defending champion LSU pulls away from UCLA in fourth quarter to reach Elite 8

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Flau’jae Johnson, the 2023 SEC Freshman of the Year, delivered one of her best performances of the season on Saturday — at a time when her team needed her the most. 

Johnson’s team-best 24 points helped the defending national champion LSU Tigers pull away from the second-seeded UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16. Angel Reese finished the game with 16 points and 11 rebounds to record her 26th double-double of the season. 

Although LSU trailed 67-64 with 2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Tigers went on a 14-2 run to close out the game.

LSU has now reached the Elite Eight for a second consecutive season, where they will face Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes. LSU defeated Iowa in last season’s NCAA women’s basketball national championship game.

LSU led by seven points at halftime, but after making just two of their first 20 shots from 3-point range, the Bruins hit four of their next five.

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Consecutive 3-pointers from Londynn Jones keyed an 11-2 run that gave UCLA the lead at 45-44, and the teams were tied at 48 headed into the fourth quarter.

Johnson had two early 3-pointers in the first half. Her spinning baseline drive and layup highlighted an 8-0 LSU spurt that put the Tigers up 25-18.

LSU Tigers players block a shot

The Bruins made just one of 16 shots from behind the arc before Jones’ 3-pointer from the left wing just before the halftime buzzer. That ended an 8-0 LSU run and cut what had been a 10-point lead to 34-27.

Angel Reese dribbles

LSU is looking to become the first team in NCAA Division I women’s basketball to win back-to-back national titles since the UConn Huskies won its fourth straight championship in 2016.

The Bruins have made 19 NCAA Tournaments and have been in the Sweet 16 nine times, including three in the last four years. But they have advanced to just two regional finals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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