LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA came out of the gate on strong and never looked back and now the Bruins are headed to their third consecutive Sweet 16.
Jordin Canada scored 21 points and Japreece Dean added 16 points to lead third-seeded UCLA to an 86-64 victory over No. 11 seed Creighton in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday night.
UCLA (26-7) advances to the Kansas City Regional and will face Texas on Friday.
Canada, made six of seven shots, dished out eight assists, had six rebounds and five steals to lead the Bruins. The senior guard, the Pac 12 defensive Player of the Year and three-time All-Conference guard, has scored 20 or more points in six of her last eight games.
“We knew we had to come out more aggressive and play hard today,” Canada said. “We had to punch first and often. I think we dictated more this game. It was hard for them to get into a rhythm. On defense, they never got into a flow.”
Bruins coach Cori Close said it was a vast improvement from Saturday’s game.
“I was not a happy coach for the last 48 hours,” Close said. “I challenged them and made them accountable and I knew they would be more consistent today. The players deserve all of the credit.
“This is the first UCLA women’s basketball team that has ever gone to three consecutive Sweet 16’s. This team came in here and set a new level of excellence for UCLA women’s basketball. They have the passion.”
Monique Billings scored 15 points and Kennedy Burke added 11 points for UCLA.
Audrey Faber led Creighton with 20 points and Olivia Elger added 13 for the Bluejays.
The Bruins scored on eight of their first nine possessions to jump to an early double-digit lead. Dean’s 3-pointer at the 4:12 mark of the opening quarter gave UCLA an 18-7 lead. The Bruins kept the defensive pressure on the Bluejays and led 26-15 after the first quarter.
“We played with more energy this time than we did the first time we played them,” Dean said.
UCLA continued to use its speed and quickness in the second quarter and forced 10 first half turnovers while upping its lead to 49-32 at the break, following a pair of free throws by Billings down the stretch. Billings led the Bruins with 13 points in the first half. Creighton never got closer than 17 points in the second half.
UCLA improved to 14-3 at home this season. Jaclyn Agnew and Sydney Lamberty, who combined to score 44 points in Creighton’s win over Iowa on Saturday, made only 3 of 13 shots and were held to nine points.
“UCLA was terrific and the game got out of hand early,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “They hit shots early and we didn’t get organized. We started to hit some shots but it’s a testament to how well they played. They did a good job on defense and kept us off balance and kept the pressure on us. They will be super competitive in Kansas City.”
UCLA: The Bruins are making their 15th NCAA tournament appearance. UCLA’s best finish was in 1999 when they reached the Elite Eight. The Bruins have an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 17-14.
CREIGHTON: The Bluejays finished fourth in the Big East this season and were attempting to advance to their program’s first Sweet 16. CU returned to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time under Flanery and the seventh time in program history. Creighton is 5-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
On Monday, UCLA seniors Kelli Hayes, Billings and Canada played their final collegiate game at Pauley Pavilion. The trio helped the Bruins to a 46-3 record at home over the past three years.
“It was special, walking on the home court for the last time,” said Canada. “I was thinking about all of the things we accomplished and to win in my last home game, made it even more special.”
Monique Billings has recorded 17 double doubles this season and 46 in her career. With her nine rebounds on Monday, she moved into second place all-time in rebounding with 1,145. Canada is the Bruins all-time assists leader (815) and is second on the all-time scoring list with 2,108 points.
COUNT ON HIM
Bluejays Head coach Jim Flanery has led Creighton to postseason play in 14 of his 16 years.
UCLA: The Bruins advance to the Kansas City Regional and will face Texas on Friday.