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Hot start propels Bruins past Sun Devils

Jordin Canada drives to the rim in her 24-point, seven-assist effort against Arizona State. Photo by Eric Evans Photography.
Jordin Canada drives to the rim in her 24-point, seven-assist effort against Arizona State. Photo by Eric Evans Photography.

Arizona State outscored UCLA in the second, third, and fourth quarters of Friday’s Pac-12 quarterfinal.

That wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the damage done in the first 10 minutes.

“We just dug way too deep of a hole,” said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne.

Bruin guard Jordin Canada led all scorers with 24, Monique Billings had 19 to go along with 11 rebounds, and Nicole Kornet scored 16, as UCLA advanced to the semifinals with a 77-68 win over the Sun Devils.

Sabrina Haines had 14 points, Sophie Brunner 13, and Jamie Ruden 12 (a career-high) as the three Sun Devils in double figures.

The Bruins started the game 11-of-14 from the field (79 percent), and led 25-7 after one quarter.

“That’s as well as we’ve executed all year in that first quarter,” said UCLA head coach Cori Close. “They came out in zone, a lot of people have been zoning us throughout the year. We put in some new things recently, and we really executed to perfection.”

UCLA expanded that lead to 26 mid-way through the second — 39-13 after a lay-up from forward Ashley Hearn — before the Sun Devils went on an 8-0 run into the half.

UCLA’s Monique Billings had 19 points and 11 rebounds for her 18th double-double of the season. Photo by Eric Evans Photography.

A three-pointer by Haines, a jumper from Quinn Dornstauder, and a free throw from Kelsey Moos extended that run to 14-0 out of the break, bringing Arizona State within 12 with more than seven minutes to play in the third.

From that point on, the Sun Devils could only play the Bruins even. While Arizona State outpaced the Bruins by one in the second quarter, four in the third, and five in the fourth, the team couldn’t finish the comeback.

“Right when we would get to single digits, we would foul, or UCLA would hit a big three,” Turner Thorne said.

A three-point play from Haines brought Arizona State within eight with a minute to play, and a pair of free throws from Robbi Ryan cut the deficit to six with 33 seconds. After Kennedy Burke split of pair of free throws, ASU had possession with 28 seconds to go, but threw the ball away on the inbounds, effectively sealing the result.

Close credited Billings not just for her double-double, but for setting the tone.

“Other people will talk about her points and rebounds, but what she did on the inside to draw two and three people, how hard she posted when she created driving lanes with her seals that created outside shots for Nicole, I really thought her intensity on both ends of the floor really set the tone for the entire game, and I thought she was consistent all the way through,” she said.

Billings said she knew finding the open player out of the double-team would be key.

“They really just concentrated the middle of the key, I would say and just really brought two, three people to me,” Billings said. “So I had to be strong with the ball and look for kickouts to Nicole or Jordin and just make the extra pass.”

Nicole Kornet came off the bench to score 16 points for the Bruins. Photo by Eric Evans Photography.

UCLA advances to play top-seed Oregon State on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Pac-12 semifinals, while Arizona State awaits its NCAA Tournament fate. A bid is assured, while seeding remains up in the air.

The Bruins split the season series with the Beavers, winning 66-56 in Los Angeles on Jan. 14, but falling 68-61 in Corvallis on Feb. 12, in a game Canada left in the second quarter.

“They do such a great job on the defensive end trying to control the shot selection, trying to get you into mid-range, low-percentage shots,” Close said. “It’s going to be important that we hit a couple jump shots, honestly, because we’re going to need to pull them away if we want to play to our strengths.”

Dribbles:

The largest lead Arizona State had successfully come back from this season was 12 points (v. Florida on Dec. 4) … Quinn Dornstauder was held to just four points on 2-of-4 shooting for the Sun Devils, her lowest scoring total in Pac-12 play … UCLA sweeps the season series with Arizona State, adding Friday’s win to victories in Los Angeles on Jan. 27 (69-60) and in Tempe, Ariz. on Feb. 26 (55-52) … Sophie Brunner moved into third place on Arizona State’s all-time scoring list, with 1,376 for her career. That puts her behind Cassandra Lander (1,670) and Kym Hampton (2,361) … Arizona State‘s seven first quarter points was the team’s second lowest scoring quarter of the year. UCLA held the Sun Devils to seven points in the third quarter of their previous matchup … Attendance: 4,659

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