Culver City Observer -

UCLA Women Reach The Sweet 16


March 24, 2016

The UCLA women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 bracket of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999 when they beat the University of South Florida 72-67.

The game took place last Monday in Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus. Last Saturday the Bruins beat Hawaii 66-50 in a first round game that was also played at UCLA.

On Monday the Bruins unleashed a pressing defense that held the South Florida Bulls to 34 percent shooting. The Bruins also had a poor shooting night (39 percent) so their defense was the key to the victory.

The 26-8 Bruins now must face a very good 30-4 Texas team in Bridgeport Connecticut on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Although the Bruins shot a low percentage against South Florida they made shots and free throws when it counted thanks to their outstanding guard tandem of senior Nirra Fields and sophomore Jordin Canada.

Canada led the team in scoring with 19 points, including seven of seven free throws in the closing minutes of the game. She also had seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. Fields scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots.

Fields also had to defend one of the best guards in the nation in Courtney Williams. Williams scored 29 points but she took 32 shots.

“We needed Nirra to be a defensive stopper tonight against Courtney Williams,” said Bruins head coach Cori Close. “She made Williams work for every shot.”

Now the Lady Bruins, who are in the toughest of the four regional brackets, have to face a tall and talented Texas team that has five players 6-3 and taller. The tallest player on the team is 6-7 senior center Imani Boyette who is from Windward High in Los Angeles. Bruin guard Canada also attended Windward. Local legend and former USC and WNBA star Tina Thompson is an assistant coach on the Longhorn staff.

If the Bruins get past Texas they will probably meet the No. 1 team in the nation, the University of Connecticut, which is currently 34-0. But right now UCLA is happy to be in the Sweet 16.

“We made a commitment that we were going to build chemistry this year,” said Close. “Our balance has been a strong part of our team all year. These players earned this. We are trying to build an excellent program at UCLA.”

The Bruins started that process by having the No. 1 recruiting class two years ago. After winning the women’s NIT championship last year they have taken the next step which is reaching the Sweet 16. Now sophomores Canada, Lajahna Drummer, Keli Hayes, Paulina Hersler, Monique Billings and Chrissy Baird have played up to their potential and have taken the Bruins to the next level.

Close continued to say, “I am so proud of this team. We are trying to build on something that has never happened at UCLA. This team has grown from the inside out. The past does not define the future.”


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