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Billings’ 30, 14 helps No. 17 UCLA topple Ducks

Despite shooting just 26 percent in the first quarter, No. 17 UCLA turned on the heat to hand Oregon a 79-63 loss. Monique Billings scored a career-high 30 points on the night.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament Championship-UCLA vs Oregon State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles, CA — No. 17 UCLA entered its home turf coming off a Friday night win over No. 10 Oregon State. Oregon was searching for back-to-back wins during their Southern California trip after defeating USC in a thrilling 59-53 victory two days prior.

The long UCLA team used their athleticism and relentless effort to reach the rim to defeat the Ducks 79-63.

“I’m really proud of the mental toughness and proud of the togetherness and the selflessness,” UCLA’s head coach Cori Close said of her team.

UCLA’s Kennedy Burke is a 6-foot-1 guard, and between her and 6-foot-4 Monique Billings, height should have been a controlling factor in the game. But the Bruins were shooting at just 26 percent in the first quarter, and their height couldn’t make up for their lack of accuracy.

The Bruins opened the game with a 6-0 run. While they failed to maintain that momentum in the first quarter trailing 19-14, they continued to play at high volume in the second.

UCLA flat-out dominated the second quarter. They started off the second quarter with a 7-0 run and continued that speed and power throughout the quarter to head into halftime with an 11-point lead.

“We had to create ball pressure. Just pressure them and turn them over,” Close said..

Oregon had 14 turnovers in the first half, while the Bruins scored 13 times off those turnovers. You do the math.

Trailing 40-29 at the half, the Ducks were only able to hang in the game due to their shooting accuracy. Ruthy Hebard scored 14 points in the first quarter, and Oregon shot 50 percent to the Bruins’ 42 percent.

The Ducks didn’t go the free throw line in the entire first half, which visibly frustrated head coach Kelly Graves.

Hebard was Oregon’s silver lining of the night. Every time the Bruins left her unaccounted for, she scored, finishing the game with 29 points and nine rebounds—just one board shy of a double-double. Her team-leading points were not enough to bring the Ducks the “W,” but her coaches as excited to watch her grow.

She’s young. She’s a freshman. And I think that she’s accepted every challenge people have thrown at her and we’ve thrown at her,” Oregon assistant coach Jodie Berry said about Hebard after the game.

The victorious team’s star shooter Billings showed off her power by making baskets from point-blank range. When she was within 10 feet of the rim, it was over. She continually rose above the Oregon defense and ended with 14 rebounds and a new career-high 30 points, giving her her tenth double-double of the season.

Her focus was to “just to keep the game simple and do what I know how to do,” Billings said after the win. “Just produce for the team.”

Three other Bruins ended in double digit scoring; Burke (16), Kelli Hayes (14) and Jordin Canada (13).

Canada played a full 40 minutes, leading her team in assists with 13.

“I’m not really focused on how many minutes I’m playing exactly, I’m just doing what my team needs me to do,” Canada said after the game.

Although playing Canada the entire game wasn’t ideal for her head coach, Close said her junior guard is trained to handle it.

“Our defense starts with her, too. It’s a compliment to her. She means that much to our team,” Close said, adding that Canada set the tone on offense with her first few possessions.

The Bruins have won 22-straight games at home, tying for fifth-longest streak in the country.

The Ducks return to Eugene 2-4 in conference play, while UCLA moves to 4-2 in Pac-12 play.