Oregon’s powerhouse forward Jillian Alleyne reacted quickest to her own miss and redirected the ball back to the hoop, tying the game at 70 with 52 seconds to play.
Following the inbounds pass, UCLA sophomore guard Jordin Canada raced down the court and banked in a contested layup, restoring the Bruins’ lead for good. When the final whistle blew, the UCLA women’s basketball team came away with a 77-72 victory over Oregon.
Canada and senior guard Nirra Fields were especially lethal on the night, showing why they might be the best backcourt duo in women’s basketball.
“They were big all game,” said sophomore forward Monique Billings.
Combined, the pair dropped 43 points on the Ducks. Fields led the Bruins with 23 points, while Canada finished with 20. Canada also added four assists.
“We stuck to the game plan, we pressured Oregon,” Canada said. “We just outplayed them in the end.”
That being said, the game was anything but comfortable for No. 12 UCLA (20-6, 12-3 Pac-12) against a red-hot Oregon (19-7, 8-7 Pac-12) team that won five games in a row and eight of their last nine. The Ducks gave them everything they could handle, building as much as an eight point lead in both halves.
Most of Oregon’s offense cycled through All-American Alleyne, the Pac-12 leader in rebounds per game and reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week.
Alleyne picked up right where she left off, leading everyone on the court with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
“Part of the game plan was to limit her opportunities,” Canada said. “But she’s going to get hers.”
Trailing 38-46 in the middle of the third quarter, UCLA responded. First on the defensive end, keeping Oregon off of the scoreboard for extended stretches of play.
Offensively, Fields took the initiative with five unanswered points – a layup and three free throws.
“Getting stop after stop, after stop – that was huge,” Fields said. “We were able to build on that and turn the game around.”
Then Billings, who had a quiet first half, joined in on the act. She intercepted a Ducks’ pass and took it the length of the court before finishing off an uncontested layup to restore the Bruins’ lead.
Billings added six more crucial points in the fourth quarter, ending the night with a respectable stat line of nine points and eight rebounds.
“I really fed off Fields’ and Canada’s energy in the second half,” Billings said. “That got me going down the stretch.”
Still, Oregon refused to go down and a late surge pulled them level with UCLA. Canada and Fields, however, continued to snatch important baskets when it mattered. The Bruins left Eugene sitting on 20 wins due to their outstanding performances.
Another key contributor was sophomore forward Lajahna Drummer, who piled on seven points and eight rebounds.
Next up for UCLA on Sunday is a potential Pac-12 Championship deciding showdown with No. 7 Oregon State, who blew out USC 76-52 Friday night.
“We’re feeling confident after tonight,” Canada said. “Now we have to go in and execute.”
Last time the two teams met, Oregon State didn’t know what hit them. The Bruins bested the Beavers in every aspect of the game, handing them a 71-51 loss – by far their worst of the season. UCLA, however, knows a victory in Corvallis, Oregon will be much harder to come by now that Oregon State guard Sydney Wiese is back from injury.
“We’re the underdogs,” Billings said. “They’re going to be mad after we beat them last time and it’s going to be a fight.”