UCLA women’s basketball advanced to the round of 32 on Saturday night, following a historic performance by junior guard Jordin Canada. Canada tied a school record with 16 assists and scored 15 points to go along with five rebounds.
No. 4-seeded UCLA (24-8, 13-5 Pac-12) took on No. 13-seeded Boise State (25-8, 12-6 Mountain West) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins jumped out to an early 15-0 lead and never looked back, winning by score of 83-56.
Canada finished the first quarter with six assists, which set the tone for the rest of the game. UCLA notched seven assists and seven different scorers by the end of the opening frame.
“That’s what you want to do every game, not just in the NCAA Tournament, it’s whoever you’re playing,” Canada said. “We realized that it’s one and done so you have to come out and attack every single time. I thought we did a great job of doing that.”
The Bruins finished the game plus 17 in the assist category and forced 16 turnovers, controlling the pace of play for the majority of the contest.
Junior forward Monique Billings was also targeted early and often as she established her dominance in the post, finishing with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds.
However, Billings struggled from the free throw line, shooting just 5-of-12, but her teammates had her back all night on the offensive end. UCLA finished with four scorers in double-figures, and senior guard Kari Korver finished just shy with nine points.
“As a team, it can’t just be me and Jordin, so the role players, key players need to step up and I think that’s what they did today and it’s been an emphasis in our practices all week,” Billings said.
Redshirt senior guard Nicole Kornet was one of those key players. She came off the bench and scored 14 points after knocking down four 3s, helping the Bruins to a 10-of-17 night from downtown.
Coach Cori Close was pleased with the opening round win, but says that the key to winning tournament games is the preparation that the team has been doing behind the scenes all season.
“You’ve got to fall in love with preparing and you’ve got to fall in love with making a play for a teammate. And I think the reality for us is that that’s what we’ve been trying to do the whole year, so we’re not changing when the NCAA Tournament happens,” Close said. “It’s not based on if we shoot the ball well or not shoot the ball well, it’s that we’re gonna give everything we have in preparation, play selfless basketball and let the chips fall where they may.”
UCLA’s loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament may have also played a large role in Saturday night’s win.
“I think I said after the Pac-12 tournament loss that I was really confident that it was going to change us for the better, and because I trust this team’s heart so much,” Close said. “They care deeply, they work really hard and are not afraid to be challenged.”
As for Boise State, a record-breaking season comes to an end after winning a school-record 25 games. The Broncos shot 21-of-70 from the floor and never found a consistent rhythm.
UCLA will face the winner of Pennsylvania and Texas A&M on Monday at Pauley Pavilion.