Los Angeles, Calif. – The No. 9 UCLA Bruins packed a punch in the last half of their season opener Friday to rout Pacific, 82-55.
Jordin Canada and Monique each had double-doubles for the Bruins, with 15 points a piece and 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively. Nicole Kornet added 15 points and Kennedy Burke, 10.
UCLA struggled early with the Tigers, which kept both the first and second quarters close. There were six ties and five lead changes in the half, with neither team mounting more than a five-point lead. The hosts shot only 32.6 percent.
But the Bruins came out hot in the third quarter, with Billings leading the charge, and they outscored Pacific 32-12. The last period was complete domination by UCLA, as they stretched their lead to as much as 33 points.
The Bruins still only shot 38.7 percent on the night, but they outrebounded the visitors, 60-32; out-blocked them 12-1; and had 36 points in the paint to the Tigers’ six.
Coach Cori Close said she wasn’t pleased by her team’s start, but liked the way they finished.
“I thought we had a maturity about us in that we realized we just had to grind this out,” Close said. “In the first half I was not at all pleased with our defense. In the third quarter we came out with a new level of intensity and had nine straight stops at one point.”
“That’s the worst we’ve shot since this team has been together. One thing I wasn’t pleased with is that we let our energy and intensity and focus go down as a result of that, and that’s something we need to work on.”
UCLA capped a great 2015-2016 season by advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. They were ranked by the Associated Press higher going into the season than where they finished last year. Pac-12 coaches tabbed them to win the conference title. Close indicated after Friday’s game that the Bruins could live up to those expectations.
“Were not even close to our potential,” she said. “I think this is going to be a team that continues our trajectory. It wasn’t a great performance for us, but I liked the blue collar mentality we had.”
Kornet, a senior transfer from Oklahoma, made her debut in a UCLA uniform and impressed with 3-8 three-point shooting. Sophomores Burke and Ashley Hearn showed improvement from last season, with three consecutive deflections from Hearn exciting the crowd. Seven of the nine Bruins that took the court had five or more rebounds.
Junior guard Canada, ranked by ESPN as the 21st-best player in the nation going into the season, started the game shooting cold, but ended up three assists shy of a triple-double. Close said she is impressed by Canada’s maturity.
“She’s taking fewer shots, but she’s being more efficient in her shooting,” Close said. “She’s controlling the game in a much better way.”
The road gets tougher for UCLA, as they head to Waco to take on No. 4 Baylor Monday.