Dixon leads UCLA women over Saint Mary's 76-62
UCLA has really benefited from the return of Jasmine Dixon.
The fifth-year senior missed last season with a rupture to her right Achilles. She's still working her way back.
Dixon scored five of her 13 points during a decisive run in the second half and No. 14 UCLA beat Saint Mary's 76-62 on Saturday in the St. John's Holiday Classic.
''Jasmine Dixon is one of the most talented players on our team,'' UCLA coach Cori Close said. ''She needs to be that player for us who we can depend on night in and night out. She still hasn't played a full week in practice yet.''
Trailing 49-48 midway through the second half, Dixon sparked a 12-0 burst that lifted UCLA (6-1) to the victory. She had the first five points of the spurt.
''At that point I came in and tried to fill in the position that coach needed me to fill and do whatever I needed to do to get the lead for my team,'' Dixon said.
Dixon said her injury has physically healed, but she's still trying to regain her pre-injury form.
''I've been taking it day by day,'' said Dixon, who only played 16 minutes on Saturday. ''I'm working to get back to where I was before.''
Trailing 35-28 at the half, Saint Mary's rallied behind Danielle Mauldin. The junior scored 11 points in the first 10 1/2 minutes of the second half, including a free throw with 9:39 remaining that gave the Gaels their first lead since early in the first half.
The lead was short-lived as Dixon scored a layup and then had a three-point play in the key run.
Jackie Nared finally ended the 5-minute scoring drought for the Gaels, hitting two free throws to cut the deficit to 60-51.
That's as close as they'd get as Atonye Nyingifa had eight straight points to seal the win. Markel Walker had 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Bruins. Alyssia Brewer added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Mauldin scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Gaels (6-3).
''She kept us in the game and was a critical part of what we're trying to do offensively,'' Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas said. ''We just gave them too many easy opportunities. We just turned the ball over a couple times and they scored easy baskets and they got offensive rebounds and putbacks."
''We can't do that, we all know that. We can't do that for our team to be successful. That's the difference in the game. If we learn from it then we'll be good when it counts and that's towards the end of the season.''
The Bruins play St. John's in the championship game Sunday. The Gaels face Tennessee Tech in the consolation game.
''Playing games like this will help us for the NCAA tournament,'' Close said.
The Gaels fell to 1-3 against the Pac-12 this season. They beat Oregon, but fell to Washington, Cal and now UCLA.
St. John's won the opening game of the tournament beating Tennessee Tech 58-46. Shenneika Smith had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Red Storm. Amber Thompson added 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
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