Los Angeles – UCLA raced out to a hot start against Creighton in NCAA Tournament second-round action Monday, and rode their momentum to an 86-64 win.
The Bruins became the first women’s basketball team in school history to advance to three consecutive Sweet 16 rounds behind the play of Jordin Canada, who finished with 21 points, eight assists, six rebounds and five steals. Four others scored in double figures, including Japreece Dean, with 16, and Monique Billings, with 15.
Audrey Faber, who eventually finished with 20 points, scored the first three of the game with a long shot. UCLA then made five straight shots to send the Bluejays into a timeout, but the hosts continued to blaze through the first half to lead 49-32 at halftime.
The Bruins used full court pressure defense to force Creighton into 18 turnovers, and they used their speed and quickness to 29 points off of them. The Bluejays trailed by as much as 28 points in the fourth quarter before UCLA coach Cori Close began inserting substitutes. Olivia Elger scored 13 points for the visitors.
Close said she was pleased with her team’s effort in light of what she characterized as lackadaisical play against American two days earlier. Canada said the Bruins had decided to play better, and they had also heard about the Tournament upsets that had taken place before their game.
“The last game Saturday, we didn’t come out with a lot of energy, and American was able to go on their run…and we knew tonight we had to play to our potential and dictate on the offensive end,” Canada said. “We knew there were some upsets before we played and we thought, ‘that’s not going to be us.’ We’re going to come out aggressive and come out hard.”
Creighton coach Jim Flanery credited the Bruin defense with overwhelming his team.
“I thought UCLA was terrific,” he said. “I thought they really defended us well and were sharp offensively. They did a good job of playing different defenses and keeping us off balance with the presses and all.”
The Bruins advance to the Kansas City regional, where they will play a familiar foe Friday in the Texas Longhorns. The two teams have played against one another three of the last four years.
“It’s really going to come down to possessions,” Close said. “They pride themselves on their defense and their rebounding, and we pride ourselves on our defense and our rebounding. I think it’ll be a big deal for our guards. Our guard rebounding is going to be big.”
The game also marked the final home court appearance for Canada, Billings and senior Kelli Hayes. Canada found herself reflecting on her college career at the end of the game.
“It was special – especially with Monique and Kelli and what we’ve built here,” she said. “Why I came here and the things we’ve accomplished, it all came back to me walking off the court…being able to get a win in my last home game here ever is a great feeling.”
UCLA takes on Texas Friday at 6 p.m. PT.
*This is UCLA’s 15th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bruins have won the last three second round contests played in the Tournament. UCLA reached the Sweet 16 in 2016 for the first time since 1999, and has how advance in each of the last three seasons.
*UCLA’s best finish in the NCAA Tournament is the Elite Eight in 1999.
*With her 21 points vs. Creighton, Jordin Canada moved past Maylana Martin (1997-2000, 2,101 points) and into second on the all-time UCLA career scoring list, with 2,108 points. This was Canada’s 40th career 20-point scoring game, which is fifth on the all-time school list. Canada also advanced up on the single-season scoring list at UCLA, as she moved into fifth on that list, going past Denise Curry (1977-80, 606).
*With her nine rebounds vs. Creighton, Monique Billings became UCLA’s single-season rebounds leader, with 366. The old mark was held by Denise Curry (1980-81, 360). Billings also moved past Natalie Williams (1991-1994, 1,137) and into second on the all-time UCLA career rebounding list with 1,145 rebounds.