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Senior ‘leadership’ boost No. 8 UCLA over competitive ASU

Jordin Canada shut the offensive game down with her ability to pass and score today, putting up 16 points to go along with her 10 assists to lead the No. 8 UCLA Bruins to a Sunday afternoon victory over the No. 25 Arizona State Sun Devils.

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

By Deja Mattox

Los Angeles, CA — The phrase "Home is where the heart is" couldn't be any truer for the No. 8 UCLA Bruins.

Backed by a stellar performance from senior guard Jordin Canada (16 pts., 10 assists), the Bruins (21-4, 12-2 Pac-12) held off the resilient No. 25 Arizona State Sun Devils (17-9, 8-6 Pac-12) 71-63 in a Sunday afternoon matinee.

The first half was a hard-fought battle between the Sun Devils and Bruins. The Bruins proved they were the better distributors, posting 21 assists compared to Arizona State’s 14.

The second half defensive switch-ups that UCLA head coach Cori Close decided to throw on the Sun Devils was one of the differences in this matchup. She pressed in the third quarter and had the Bruins in a zone for most of the game.

For Arizona State, an ankle injury to Kiara Russell put pressure on their already depth-plagued team. They had to play four starters for over 30 minutes. They fought back bit by bit by shooting an impressive 6-of-10 from the three-point stripe, yet it still wasn’t enough to upset UCLA.

Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne really looked at the game on the bright side and not only mentioning that she’s got a young squad, but they tried everything they could to contain the Bruins inside.

Her game plan was to stick with playing zone so that Monique Billings wouldn’t get as many touches. When asked about the game she made a simple statement.

“It’s just a game…teach…grow…get better," Turner Thorne said.

While the Sun Devils’ coach is focused on improvement, UCLA’s head coach Close paid compliment to how Arizona State adjusted when it was necessary in today’s game.

“I thought their team, they compete so hard," Close said. "I was really impressed with their composure and especially throughout pressure. Especially in the second half the way they adjusted. They gave us all we could handle.”

UCLA’s smart offense proved why they are so successful. Everyone who has a role took ownership and you could see it on the court. They set ball screens to clear some room for Canada’s lethal court awareness which she always made the right decision as she posted 10 dimes on the night and had zero turnovers.

They cleared the lane from too many cutters so that Billings could stretch her arms out in order for her to pull in any good or bad pass that came her way. Not only her, but Lajahna Drummer, who shot a perfect 7-of-7 from the field and 1-of-1 from the three-point line, finishing with 15 points. If Billings didn’t grab the board (seven on the night), then Drummer was right there for it, which proved true by finishing with eight rebounds.

"Really proud of the leadership of these two (Billings and Canada). Recently Monique has been so efficient and our mainstream, our rock in the inside when Jordin is struggling a little bit," Close said. "And today I thought Mo did all the dirty work. I thought the turning point in the game and I told them this in the locker-room, was her save out of bounds.”

The Sun Devils were led by Robbi Ryan who finished the game with 14 points by shooting 4-of-8 from the field and knocking down both threes she attempted.

UCLA’s next conference game will be on Feb. 16 against the Oregon State Beavers at 8 pm PT. Arizona State will look to bounce back the same day against rival Arizona at 6 pm PT.

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