UCLA beats WVU for WNIT title

What a finish in the WNIT final, with UCLA getting past West Virginia, 62-60. Freshman Jordin Canada lead the Bruins with a career-high 31 points:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) The gap in the middle of West Virginia’s defense was a repeating invitation that UCLA freshman Jordin Canada couldn’t pass up.

Canada drove to the basket often and scored a season-high 31 points to lead UCLA to a 62-60 win over West Virginia for the Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship Saturday.

Canada was the only double-figure scorer for the Bruins (19-18) and was selected the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

”The driving lane was wide open,” Canada said. ”I just tried to attack the basket as much as I can.”

UCLA recap.

WVU TV station recap.

Box score.

Not only was this fun for the Bruins, giving her team a postseason was the best thing coach Cori Close could have done to further their development.

I went to see UCLA play Northern Colorado last week, on their way to the title game. The Bruins had improved markedly since I’d seen them two weeks before, during the regular season. Individual players seemed to have more confidence, and many were doing things I’d not seen them do before. For example: freshman Monique leaping up to catch a ball thrown by UNC, and then starting a fast break. UCLA’s on-court chemistry had also visibly improved.

Close said after the game that the entire team was using the time as a growth period, and that this would help them develop together as a team. They will have a great dose of that, as well as the momentum from the tournament win to take into next season.

As for Jordin Canada, she showed why she was named Pac 12 freshman of the year with half of her team’s points. More significantly, she stepped up when leading scorer Nirra Fields was having an off-night. Teams that can do that turn into champions.