By: Eric He
February 14, 2016
LOS ANGELES — The thrill of making a large comeback only to fall just short has happened time and time again to the Bruins. On Sunday, they finally turned the tables.
The No. 14 UCLA women came from 17 points down to defeat Washington 63-59 at Pauley Pavilion, the largest deficit the program has overcome in 10 years.
Kelsey Plum, the nation’s second leading scorer, had a chance to tie the game in the dying seconds, but her layup rolled off the rim after she drove past defenders to the basket. With a two-point lead and possession, the Bruins hung on for the close win.
The Bruins trailed by one entering the fourth quarter, but never trailed after taking the lead at the six-minute mark, when Kari Korver knocked down a three-pointer from the left corner with a quick release to give UCLA a 52-51 lead. On the ensuing possession, Korver set up Monique Billings who made a nice up-and-under move to score down low and swing the momentum in the Bruins’ favor.
Korver said head coach Cori Close sensed she was due for a big shot: “Coach told me, ‘It’s your time, Korver.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, it is,’ and I was happy to knock it down.”
Close was pleased with her team’s effort and tenacity in fighting back.
“I loved the perseverance and steadiness that this team has showed all year long,” Close said. “Every time we’ve gone down early, we’ve found ways to steadily chipped away. Up until today, we haven’t been able to finish the drill on one of those big comebacks. It’s really big for us to finish that off.”
Jordin Canada led the way with 16 points, while Billings had the way with a double-double – 13 points and 13 rebounds – her sixth of the season. Nirra Fields chipped in 13 points as well.
The first quarter was not very pretty for the Bruins, as Plum put her stamp on the game early, putting up 17 first quarter points to outscore the Bruins by herself. She fueled 11-2 and 9-0 runs in the frame as the Huskies led 26-13 after one quarter. Plum shot 7-of-10 from the field in the first quarter alone, including a three-point play that gave Washington a 26-9 advantage.
The Bruins, meanwhile, started the game cold, missing eight consecutive shots at one point and trailed by as many as 17 in the first.
But after a poor first quarter, UCLA woke up in the second, outscoring Washington 22-10 to get back in the game. Fields drilled back-to-back three-pointers from the same spot to pull the Bruins within five. That was part of an 11-0 run that cut the Huskies’ lead to just three. A nice pump fake and driving layup by Fields late in the half sent UCLA into the locker room trailing 36-35.
“We got punched in the first half, but we had to punch back,” Billings said. “That’s what we did.”
The third quarter featured plenty of back-and-forth action, but both teams struggled offensively. A gradual 8-0 run by UCLA put them ahead 47-44, but a three-pointer by Plum tied the game back up again. Washington led 48-47 heading into the fourth.
Plum, after exploding early on, was somewhat subdued in the second half. She did finish with a game-high 32 points, but the Bruins were able to hold her in check in the latter stage by playing zone and making her adjust to their tempo.
“You’re never going to stop Kelsey Plum by yourself,” Close said. “It’s just not going to happen. We played their tempo in the first quarter. Once we got our tempo going, we made her play at our tempo.”
The Bruins will now prepare for a road trip to Oregon where they will take on the Ducks and Beavers on Feb. 19 and 21, respectively.
This post was originally published on T.G. Sports.