UCLA holds off USC to move into tie for first in Pac-12
By JILL PAINTER LOPEZ
LOS ANGELES (AP) When things got hectic for UCLA on the road, the Bruins turned to UCLA senior point guard Jordin Canada.
Canada scored 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter against USC. Canada added eight assists to lead No. 8 UCLA to an 84-70 win Monday night.
Monique Billings scored 18 points and also had 11 rebounds for her 41st career double-double. It was the second time in four days UCLA beat USC.
UCLA (19-4, 10-2 Pac-12) moved into a three-way tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Oregon and Stanford. It was the Bruins' eighth consecutive win and they moved up one spot in the national rankings earlier in the day.
The Bruins haven't lost a game this season (19-0) in which they've led after three quarters. Canada has much to do with that.
"She's a gamer. She just knows how to show up and handle business on the court," Billings said "Every time she does, I always tell her `be a pro.' I try to get that into her mindset. I think that's what she's really shown."
Aliyah Mazyck had a team-best 21 points for the Trojans (15-8, 5-7 Pac-12). Minyon Moore made one of two free throws to pull USC within 69-68 in the fourth quarter with 4:41 left, but the Trojans wouldn't get any closer as the Bruins closed the game on a 15-2 run.
Canada made all seven of her free throws in the final 4:33.
"Jordin Canada just said, `we're not losing this game,' " USC coach Mark Trakh said. "She kind of turned it up a bit. I looked at my defensive coach and first we're like, `get off of her. Give her some room.' And she made a couple of threes. Then we're like, `go push up on her.' And she flew by. I looked at him and said, `can you please get a defensive scheme to stop her?' And I don't even remember what he said but it was funny because I laughed."
USC senior Kristen Simon played just three minutes in the first half and was on the bench in foul trouble, but finished with 12 points. She made a 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer to pull USC within five points at 61-56. She fouled out with 7:11 left in the third quarter. She suffered an unknown injury in the first quarter but quickly returned to the game.
UCLA led 44-33 at halftime and outrebounded USC, 47-28. The Bruins had 14 of their 15 offensive rebounds in the first half.
IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT
The Pac-12 Conference is so stout that UCLA is ranked in the top 10 in the country but just moved back into a three-way tie for first place in the conference.
"I like the position we're in," Lajahna Drummer said. "We're just trying to focus on one game at a time. I try to be there for our team. We're in a great position, but we're not finished yet."
USC is two games below .500 in the Pac-12, but Trakh is hopeful there's still something to play for come March.
"From where we're going and where we're building the program, it's got to get done in increments," Trakh said. "We're coaching hard for our three seniors. We want them to have a good experience. We're 5-7 and we have two games this weekend. If we can get to 7-7 before we play the Oregon schools, we're looking at believing a bubble NCAA team if we win the next two or an NIT (berth). Any kind of postseason would be great for these kids right now."
UCLA: The Bruins did what they were supposed to do in beating the Trojans again and are riding the momentum into a stretch of playing three ranked opponents over their next four games.
USC: The Trojans can't let consecutive losses against one of the top teams in the country affect them since they play another ranked opponent in Arizona State this week.
UCLA: Hosts Arizona on Friday.
USC: Hosts Arizona State on Friday.
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Updated February 6, 2018