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Women’s basketball approaches senior day, final regular season games

Saturday’s game against Utah will be the final regular season home game that senior Kelli Hayes will play in. The guard is averaging 6.6 points per game and has started in all 27 games this season for the Bruins. (Grant Mooney/Daily Bruin)

By Joy Hong

Feb. 22, 2018 1:25 a.m.

Coach Cori Close said her biggest message at practice was uniformity – making game adjustments as a team rather than individually.

The Bruins fell to a top-15 team Monday in overtime for a second consecutive game, but they will have the opportunity to bounce back this week as conference play comes to a close.

“We had some times where we let doubt creep in and we made decisions based on our own feelings and not on our synergistic game plan,” Close said. “We always need to execute the game plan (because) we can adjust the game plan as long as we all try to execute it (together).”

No. 10 UCLA women’s basketball (21-6, 12-4 Pac-12) hosts Colorado (14-13, 5-11) on Thursday and then Utah (17-10, 8-8) on Saturday. The contest on Saturday is not only the final Pac-12 game of the season, but is also senior day.

Senior guard Kelli Hayes, one of three members from UCLA’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2014, said senior day will be special for her, guard Jordin Canada and forward Monique Billings.

“It’s something that is really endearing because not everyone makes it four years, and it’s something that we’ve really dedicated and put our heart to,” Hayes said. “It’s something to make ourselves proud, our team proud and our families proud.”

The Bruins defeated the Buffaloes in a 93-55 blowout and then edged the Utes 81-74 back in mid-January.

UCLA shot 36.1 percent from the field against Utah but converted on 23-of-27 attempts at the free throw line – its best percentage from the charity stripe when attempting more than 20. Against Colorado, the Bruins shot 46.8 percent and made nine 3s en route to a 38-point victory.

“Because you’re creating – either by a screen or a pass – an easier shot, you’re percentages go up,” Close said. “It facilitates shot selection, more on balance shots and rhythm on the offensive end.”

Over the last three games, the Bruins have notched their three highest assist-to-turnover ratios since they last played Colorado.

“I think it’s super important to take care of the ball,” said junior guard Japreece Dean. “Dealing with the teams we’re playing against, they’re really good teams and they can really convert off those turnovers.”

Dean and Canada logged 40 assists and just 7 turnovers in the three games combined, good for a 5.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. The team together averages a 1.7 on the season.

As Canada graduates this year, Dean will take on a senior leadership role herself next season.

“I’ve just enjoyed building our relationship because most people wouldn’t think two point guards would build a relationship like that,” Dean said. “I just appreciate how sweet and kind-hearted she is to help me.”

After Hayes drained a triple off a pass from Canada on Monday night against Oregon, Canada became the new record holder for career assists in the Pac-12 with 765.

“I didn’t know that that was the record breaking (assist),” Hayes said. “ But I congratulated her (on Twitter), like many other people did, and I was like ‘Without me you wouldn’t have gotten that,’ jokingly, of course.”

Canada needs just 11 points this week to become the only active player in NCAA women’s basketball to have at least 2000 points, 700 assists and 300 steals.

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Joy Hong | Managing editor
Hong is the 2019-2020 Managing editor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the women's basketball, men's water polo, women's water polo, women's tennis, and beach volleyball beats.
Hong is the 2019-2020 Managing editor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the women's basketball, men's water polo, women's water polo, women's tennis, and beach volleyball beats.
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