Los Angeles – Monique Billings had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Jordin Canada added 14 points to pace the No. 7 UCLA Bruins past UC Santa Barbara, 74-44 on Sunday.
The Bruins used stifling defense to hold two Gaucho starters scoreless; they outrebounded them, 45-23, and forced the visitors into 23 turnovers in a dominating performance in which they were never challenged.
UCSB’s leading scorer, Drew Edelman, missed the last game with an injury but returned to score 12 points. Sarah Porter added 11. Freshman Michaela Onyenwere came off the bench for UCLA to score 12 points.
It was the fourth straight win for the Bruins since losing to top-seeded Connecticut two weeks ago, and it was the seventh consecutive loss for the Gauchos after a season last year that saw them play in the Big West Tournament championship game.
UCLA coach Cori Close gave three of her four freshmen extended minutes, as the team prepares for three weeks of games on the road this month. She said the newcomers are learning in real time.
“I wonder if it’s slowed down some of our flow, because their heads are spinning. It’s a lot,” Close said. “But if we’re going to be able to use our depth in Pac-12 play…..I can’t expect them do to that without experience. But it has come at a cost.”
Despite winning three and a row coming into the matchup, the Bruins weren’t satisfied with their effort. Billings said that changed in practice this week.
“We’re focused on our team, and we’re focused on getting better every single day and bringing out the best in each other,” Billings said. “That will be the most important emphasis, is playing to our standard.”
Canada also said she has been satisfied with what she’s seen from the team.
“I like our progression – it gets better with every practice,” she said. “We’re more aggressive, and that’s when we play at our best.”
Gaucho coach Bonnie Henrickson said her team was overmatched.
“They are active and they use their length. They are destructive in the passing lanes,” she said. “They put pressure on the ball, and did a really good job of getting stops whenever we tried to throw the ball.”
Billings said one main element was back for the Bruins in the game: fun.
“The last game wasn’t that fun, not just because we knew the coaches were upset at us, but because we knew we weren’t playing at our best,” she said. “Today we had a lot of energy for each other, and we played as hard as we could and had fun.”
UCLA heads to Oklahoma State Friday before taking a week off for finals, after which they travel to New York. UCSB hosts Loyola Marymount Friday.