No. 8 UCLA outlasts USC to tie for first in Pac-12

Aliyah Mazyck, Jordin Canada. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Aliyah Mazyck, Jordin Canada. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

Los Angeles – Jordin Canada scored 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead a 15-2 UCLA run down the stretch to close out USC Monday, 84-70. The No. 8 Bruins swept the Trojans in the season series and moved into a three-way tie for first place in Pac-12 standings with the win.

Canada also dished eight assists, and two of her teammates had double-doubles: Monique Billings, with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Lajahna Drummer, with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Now 19-4, UCLA is tied with Oregon and Stanford in conference play, with 10-2 records.

Canada, who not only calls plays for her team but rallies them in close game situations, was using her usual playbook against their crosstown rivals in what was a physical and sometimes chippy matchup.

USC entered the final frame trailing by only five points, after being behind by as many as 14 in the third quarter. A Minyon Moore free throw shot with 4:41 remaining got the Trojans to within one point. But seven made free throws by Canada, as well as point and a steal from Billings, down the stretch sealed the win for UCLA.

“She’s a gamer. She just knows how to show up and handle business on the court,” Billings said of Canada. “Every time she does, I always tell her ‘be a pro.’ I try to get that into her mindset. I think that’s what she’s really shown.”

Bruin coach Cori Close was pleased with her team’s ability to close out.

“I liked the way we started and I liked the way we finished,” she said. “We got to the free throw line and scored eight out of the last nine possessions, and held them to one out of their last seven possessions. I’m proud of the way we finished the game and the way we had mental poise and toughness.”

Aliyah Mazyck played all 40 minutes for the Trojans, and scored 21 points. Center Kristen Simon played only three minutes of the first half after an injury, and then picking up her third foul. She finished with 12 points, but played only 16 minutes after fouling out with 7:11 remaining in the game. Moore scored 11 points.

USC has been hammered with injuries this season and has only seven players available. Coach Mark Trakh said the team is still improving game by game, and is resilient.

“I’m happy that we’re competing with everybody and that we’re playing hard,” he said. “We’re playing with everybody; we haven’t been blown out all year. The next step is to win the game in the last four minutes.”

Trakh credited Canada for guiding the UCLA win.

“We got to within one, but Jordin Canada just said, ‘we’re not losing this game,’ ” Trakh said. “She kind of turned it up a bit. I looked at my defensive coach and first we’re like, ‘get off of her. Give her some room.’ And she made a couple of threes. Then we’re like, ‘go push up on her.’ And she flew by. I looked at him and said, ‘can you please get a defensive scheme to stop her?’ And I don’t even remember what he said but it was funny because I laughed.”

Trakh had high praise for Billings and Canada, who are both projected to be first-round picks in April’s WNBA draft, calling them both “special” players.

“I want to give a shout out to Billings and Canada. You can say somebody’s athletic, but that’s almost doing them a disservice because not only are they athletic, but they’re extremely skilled,” Trakh said. “And the reason they’re skilled is because they work on their game so much.”

“Canada hit those threes, going to the basket and passing. Billings and her footwork, the ups and under. They’re talented, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are skilled because of all the time they spend in the gym. So shout out to them.”

Both UCLA and USC stay home this weekend to host the Arizona schools.