Los Angeles, Calif. – Defense and rebounds in the waning seconds of Friday’s match up helped the No. 13 UCLA Bruins withstand a furious run by No. 16 Arizona State to pull out a 69-60 win.
Jordin Canada led the Bruins with 26 points, four rebounds and six assists, while Monique Billings chipped in 16 points and 10 rebounds for her 13th double-double on the season. Sophie Brunner led three Sun Devils in double figures with 16 points.
UCLA got out to a fast start and lead 36-24 at halftime. They extended their lead to 18 points in the third quarter, but in the final period the visitors got hot and twice whittled the lead down to five – the second time being with 1:14 to go on a Kiara Russell three-point shot.
A crucial block by Bruin guard Kari Korver with 35 seconds to go got Billings a rebound and then Canada a foul after a pass. Canada scored four three throws and grabbed a rebound to seal the win.
UCLA coach Cori Close called it a “grind it out” victory, which she said comes with the territory playing in the Pac 12 Conference.
“We (teams) know each other well, and there are a lot of good teams,” she said. “Every night it’s going to be about toughness, perseverance and stamina.”
The Bruins went to the free throw line 28 times and the Sun Devils, 21. Billings said her team prepared well for the match up.
“Arizona’s a very physical team so we have to match that and match the aggression, to be as physical as they are,” she said. “All week I’ve been working on meeting players low in their body and not meeting them high.”
Close said that for the most part, it worked.
Overall I thought we executed our game plan, which was to make it hard for them to find their forwards, to control the defensive end of the floor and to control the paint,” she said. “I’m most pleased about……the way we controlled the paint. We made them go deep into the shot clock on every offensive possession. They’re shooting in single digits every time, so that’s less opportunities for them to come back.”
Arizona State Charli Turner Thorne said she liked the second half effort from her young team, but that it was “too little, too late.”
“Our guards are still babies. It’s just not quite there, they’re still learning,” she said. “I’m pleased with the second half in that we can handle getting beat, but we can’t handle getting outworked. Our young kids are still learning how to play hard every possession, and that’s still an adjustment for my veterans, and for all of us.”
Canada, a junior, never lost her poise throughout the game – even on one occasion when an opponent tried to wrestle the ball from her grasp as she lied on the floor. In another instance, Canada lowered her head and barreled three quarters of the way down the court past two Arizona State guards and laid the ball up and in on the left side.
Canada downplayed her efforts.
“As a point guard you have to be poised at all times, no matter what the situation or circumstance,” she said. “And when Arizona State was making their run, I had to be the one to stay composed and make sure everyone was on the same page. I think that’s my job overall.”
Turner Thorne noticed the leadership.
“Credit to Canada, she’s a great player and she did what she needed to do to lead her team,” Turner Thorne said.