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Nirra has a 'Field' day on Senior Day

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No. 14 UCLA Bruins handled No. 9 Arizona State Sun Devils to cap off senior day. The Bruins turned the Sun Devils over 14 times, including nine steals. They were also able to capitalize shooting just over 85% from the free-throw line. Nirra Fields led the charge for UCLA along side Jordin Canada with

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles, CA -- The stakes and energy were high at the Pauley Pavilion as UCLA took on ASU in the final regular season game of the season, both teams looking for momentum going into the PAC 12 Tournament. In their last meeting, the #9 ranked Sun Devils defeated the #14 Bruins 65 to 61.

This time around, the Sun Devils were shaded at Pauley, as a determined Bruins' team won 74 to 61. After the game Coach Close stated that her team was mentally in the right place for this challenge, "This was the best week of preparation the whole year. They were just locked in."

Pressure was the name of the game, and both teams came out applying fierce defense. A scrappy Arizona State team refused to let up on the UCLA, drawing early fouls with deep pressure down low.

With the extreme defensive pressure, UCLA struggled to find the shot in the first yet, when they did find it, struggled to make it not getting on the board until 6:20 left in the first. Remaining strong, UCLA was able to hold the Sun Devils to only four points with six minutes left in the first.

An impressive spinning drive to the basket by star, Jordin Canada resulted in a three-point play and the Bruins' first lead of the game. The move of the night was a steal by Kelli Hayes, who shot it to Canada who was able to organize an extremely impressive sequence down low to Monique Billings for two.

Arizona State’s aggressive play got the best of them in the first, committing four fouls in the first seven minutes of the game. A visibly frustrated Sun Devil’s team they struggled to make the right shots and continued to foul in the final minute of the first as UCLA remained on top, 19 to 12.

A jumper from Quinn Dornstauder gave Arizona State the first points of the second, but UCLA responded with a great pass from Canada to Drummer down low for the easy layup.

The Sun Devils were able to set up some effective offensive plays, however struggled getting the shots to drop and the Bruins' power defense was right there to get the board. Again, Canada had a SportsCenter Top 10 crossover move, kicking it to Kelli Hayes who swished yet another three, giving UCLA their largest lead of the game by 10.

A three by Katie Hempen kept the Sun Devils in the game with 4:40 left in the half, but Canada responded with yet another steal and easy layup. Arizona State continued to struggle with turnovers, as Nirra Fields was able to steal the ball for an easy layup two possessions in a row. A buzzer-beating jumper by Arnecia Hawkins concluded the half with UCLA leading, 38 to 29.

The third period started off slow, both teams struggling to take effective shots. ASU continued to be uncharacteristically sloppy, and UCLA took advantage of it with their pure athleticism. The Sun Devils continued to commit turnovers and unnecessary fouls, keeping them down 51 to 36 with 2:31 remaining in the third.

Dorstauder continued to lead the Sun Devils in scoring and kicking off the 4th period with an easy jumper. The Bruins were able to consistently hold onto a substantial lead early in the fourth, even while making a few sloppy fouls.

Katie Hempen drew the foul and made all three free throws, to pull Arizona State within seven points with 6:30 left in the game. Dorstauder, refusing to submit, cut the lead to five with 3:30 remaining in the game, but Canada responded with a much-needed three-point play.

The final minutes were a battle, as both teams traded possessions, playing with a five-point difference. With 47 seconds left in the game, Drummer fouled out, sending Hempen to the line, cutting the lead to seven. The Sun Devils were forced to foul, and with the Bruins able to knock down their free-throws, they secured the win, 74 to 61.

Fields continued to find her sweet spot on the court and leave her mark there on senior night, finishing with a team-high 24 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assist. Canada trailed her, finishing with 22 points and five assists.
Monique Billings continued to be a powerhouse down low, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds. For the Sun Devils, Dornstauder was the standout with 24 points, five rebounds and three blocks. Hempen followed with 12 points, four rebounds.

Canada responsed to the great on-court chemistry between herself and Billings, stating: "On the court we talk to each other consistently, if she’s open, she’ll tell me, if I missed her, and vice versa so we just continue to talk and throughout practice we try to do the same thing."

Coach was overjoyed with Billing’s effort, stating, "Challenge you to find me a post player in the country who’s improved more than Monique Billings."

Coach Close was beaming after the game exclaiming, "I’m really proud of what our team accomplished. Undefeated at home in the PAC-12 conference!" Her praise went on for her scoring leaders, Fields and Canada stating, "I challenge you to find a better back court in the country. It’s not just their offense, it’s how they play both ends of the floor, pressurized shots that Fields hit today, it was very fitting for her senior night."

Nirra’s possible last game at Pauley was one she stepped up for but she claimed it wasn’t an easy one: "Very emotional day. So it’s kinda hard to play your best at that time. There’s a lot of pressure. So I just wanted to do it for the team and obviously we were playing a great team so it meant a lot. I couldn’t do it without my teammates."

Arizona State is known for great defense and scrappy playing, and Coach Close gave credit to a strong Sun Devils' team, "They outplayed us in terms of toughness, our perimeter defense was the difference in the game."

Overall, the Bruins' win today puts them at the #3 seed going into the conference tournament and gives them also a great opportunity to possibly host the first round of the NCAA tournament.