LOS ANGELES — UCLA employed such a stifling zone defense that it flustered USC into 23 missed shots by halftime. The Bruins weren’t running their best offense, but with such a stout performance on the defensive end and the glass, it didn’t matter.
Monique Billings got the 40th double-double of her career with 14 points and 16 rebounds, and No. 9 UCLA shut down USC in a 59-46 victory on Friday night.
Jordin Canada added 16 points, and the Bruins (18-4, 9-2 Pac-12) won their seventh consecutive game.
UCLA outrebounded USC 48-33. UCLA had more defensive rebounds (34) than USC had total (33).
“Defensive rebounding, thank goodness for that because we didn’t play very well offensively,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “I didn’t think we played the kind of (up-tempo) style we should’ve played and needed to play, especially when we got so many stops. We should’ve got the transition game going. I think we let the zone and late shots in the shot clock lull us to sleep a little bit.”
USC (15-7, 5-6) struggled mightily against the UCLA zone in the first half and shot many 3-pointers it didn’t want to take. The Trojans were 6 for 29 from the field in the first half and just 1 for 14 from 3-point range.
“We’ve just got to be more patient,” USC coach Mark Trakh said. “We’ve got to be more selective. My assistant kept on saying we needed to be more selective and patient and I said we just passed the ball 20 times and no one could get an open shot. You only have 30 seconds. A lot of it was their defense. We’ve got to pass the ball, spread them and attack off the dribble.”
Kristen Simon led USC with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The Trojans played better in the second half, cutting UCLA’s lead to single digits in the third and fourth quarters. They finished shooting 28 percent from the field but missed 20 of 24 3-point attempts.
“I think the biggest reason is this one over here, Kelli (Hayes),” Canada said. “She brings that voice that we need in the zone. She’s talking every possession. It helps me, even though she’s playing the 4. I hear her 24-7. She brings that energy we need in the 2-3 zone. And us being able to talk and be aggressive.”
Hayes also added 11 points and six rebounds in addition to her help in quarterbacking the zone defense. Hayes is often the first player in the gym on game days.
“I’m just working on my shot,” Hayes said. “That’s something I’m trying to grow in the four years I’ve been here. I need to put in the work. No one can do it for me. I want to have my teammates’ backs.”
When USC cut the lead to nine points at 42-33 on Simon’s basket before the third-quarter buzzer, UCLA answered with consecutive baskets from Canada and Billings to push the lead back to double digits.
MOVING UP THE CHARTS
Canada needed just two points to move into third place on UCLA’s career scoring list, and she did that and then some, surpassing Rehema Stephens. Canada has 1,901 career points.
SUPER BOWL SHUFFLE
Both USC and UCLA will practice on Sunday. Close said her team will practice during the day, then watch the Super Bowl if players choose to do so. “I’m rooting for the good commercials,” Close said.
Simon landed hard on the floor in the second quarter and left the game to go into concussion protocol. She passed testing and returned in the third quarter, according to a USC spokesperson.
USC: The Trojans have work to do this weekend if they’re to avenge this loss — UCLA and USC meet again in three days.
UCLA: The Bruins put together one of their best defensive outings of the season in the first half, and that’s something they can build on for the final seven regular season conference games.
USC: Hosts UCLA on Monday.
UCLA: Plays at USC on Monday.