LOS ANGELES — UCLA did its dancing before taking on No. 3 Baylor. Afterward, the Bruins walked away winners in calm and collected fashion.
Monique Billings scored 21 points, Jordin Canada added 20 and No. 8 UCLA won 82-68 on Saturday for the its first win over the Lady Bears since 1996.
“We were excited, but we expected to win,” Bruins coach Cori Close said. “We talked about having an ‘I will’ mentality. There was a real calm, we did what we set out to do.”
Kennedy Burke had 19 points for the Bruins (3-0), who held the Lady Bears to 40 percent shooting. Baylor came in leading the nation in that category at 61 percent.
The victory extended UCLA’s home winning streak to 32 games, the second-longest active stretch in the country behind top-ranked UConn, which visits Pauley Pavilion on Tuesday night.
In a hallway leading to the court, the Bruins danced and laughed before tipoff.
Then they got serious.
The Lady Bears came out punching, taking a 12-4 lead to start the game.
The Bruins settled down, responded with their own 16-2 spurt, and the Lady Bears were in catch-up mode the rest of the game.
“It was about staying composed,” Canada said. “We didn’t get frazzled. We just did us and that was important when they came out and punched first.”
Kalani Brown scored 33 points despite playing with four fouls for Baylor (3-1). Dekeiya Cohen had 14 rebounds.
“We needed this game, a tough game, for our freshmen,” Brown said. “We’re going to fix some things.”
Billings, who gave up 3 inches to the 6-foot-7 Brown, was one of five different post players the Bruins used to help hold the Baylor star, who had her first career double-double in last year’s victory, to 12 points in the first half.
“I was looking forward to that challenge,” Billings said. “It was definitely a challenge. I’m glad my teammates had my back on defense.”
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey wasn’t with the team after her daughter Makenzie Fuller lost her baby, which had two life-threatening birth defects and would have been the coach’s first grandchild. Associate head coach Bill Brock ran the team in her absence.
“It’s been a very emotional week,” Brock said. “A tough game for me to coach because I’m a parent and have two daughters and my oldest just went through childbirth and had some difficulties herself. It just broke my heart to go see Makenzie in the hospital.
“Basketball is really secondary to everything’s that been going on in our program this week,” he said.
As proud as she was of UCLA’s first win over Baylor since Dec. 7, 1996, Close agreed with Brock while sending her thoughts and prayers to Mulkey and Fuller.
“It puts basketball in perspective really fast,” Close said. “I don’t want to lose sight that those things are more important.”
A year ago, the Bruins led Baylor at halftime in Waco, Texas, before losing 84-70.
“The difference is maturity and poise,” Close said. “We were able to answer.”
Canada had 13 of UCLA’s 21 assists. Baylor managed just 16 after coming in as the nation’s leader with 29.0.
Baylor trailed 62-58 on a basket by Alexis Morris in the fourth quarter before UCLA outscored the Lady Bears 20-10 to end the game.
Burke hit a 3-pointer, launching an 11-0 run. She scored on a layup off a bounce pass in the lane from Canada. Billings scored on a fastbreak layup and got fouled, making the free throw. Kelli Hayes tossed in a 3-pointer that extended UCLA’s lead to 72-58.
The Bruins also led by 14 in the third quarter on a basket by Canada, who fearlessly drove the lane.
After their quick start, the Lady Bears went 9:43 without a field goal over the end of the first and start of the second quarters and made just five free throws in that span.
Hayes and Canada hit 3-pointers to give UCLA its largest lead, 31-21, of the second quarter. Canada’s three-point play kept UCLA ahead 36-29 going into halftime.
Baylor starting forward Lauren Cox wasn’t with the team after being hospitalized with complications of diabetes. The sophomore scored 21 points against Central Arkansas on Tuesday and got sick the next day. Athletic trainer Alex Olson said Cox’s symptoms of dehydration, nausea and vomiting were caused by strep throat. She had diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication in which the body cannot produce enough insulin. Olson said Cox is out of the hospital and resting. She’s listed as day-to-day and the team is hopeful she can return soon.
“The life lessons that these kids had thrown at them this week, that’s some big-time adult stuff to have to deal with,” Brock said.
After winning its first three games by an average of 45.3 points, Baylor got its first stiff test of the season from the Bruins. The Lady Bears made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last season.
UCLA beat a top-three team for the first time since 2008, ending an 0-22 skid against such teams. That win came over then-No. 2 Stanford, 69-56, at Pauley Pavilion.
Baylor heads to the Bahamas to play in the Junkanoo Jam starting Thursday against Missouri State.
UCLA hosts No. 1 UConn on Tuesday night, closing out a four-game home stand to start the season.