UCLA women’s basketball routs Boise State in first round

UCLA forward Monique Billings, left, and coach Cori Close, right, smile after UCLA defeated Boise State in a first-round game of the NCAA women’s college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. Danny Moloshok AP Photo

The UCLA women’s basketball team dominated Boise State 83-56 in its NCAA Tournament first-round matchup on Friday at Pauley Pavilion.

The fourth-seeded Bruins host No. 5 Texas A&M in the second round on Monday at 7 p.m. PT for a chance to go to the Sweet 16.

Monique Billings led UCLA’s team effort with 19 points and seven rebounds. Jordin Canada tied the school record for assists in a game with 16 and had 15 points. Kennedy Burke had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Click here for more from UCLA’s first-round win

UCLA’s second-round opponent Texas A&M pulled off the biggest in NCAA Tournament history, coming back from 21 points to beat No. 12 Penn 63-61 in the first round. The Aggies trailed 58-37 with 8:57 to go then opened up a 25-1 run to take the lead with 19.1 seconds left.

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NCAA Tournament scouting report: Cincinnati

Cincinnati’s Troy Caupain (10) drives past Connecticut’s Rodney Purvis (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Storrs, Conn., Sunday, March 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Although Cincinnati is known as a stifling defensive team, it’s the team’s offense that will be the key in Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against UCLA.

“Our defense is just as bad as everybody else’s if we’re on the run,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said. “We’re on the run defensively and our scouting report is out the window.”

Cronin said it’s imperative that the Bearcats are efficient on offense. They must get offensive rebounds, make shots or gets fouled. Absolutely no live-ball turnovers, guard Troy Caupain said. Once opponents misstep on offense, then UCLA gets out in transition and delivers lethal blows as a dizzying rate.

“If you’re constantly playing transition defense, you’re not going to be very good,” Cronin said. “And if you’re plying transition defense against this UCLA team, you’re going to lose.” Continue reading “NCAA Tournament scouting report: Cincinnati” »

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UCLA lands second 2018 commit, Bishop Amat DL Aaron Maldonado

Bishop Amat defensive lineman Aaron Maldonado announced his verbal commitment to UCLA on Saturday.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound prospect was the Mission League Defensive MVP as a junior last year. He also had offers from Hawai’i, Cal, BYU and Boise State and is a three-star recruit, according to Scout.com.

Maldonado is UCLA’s second commitment for the 2018 class, joining safety Jhevon Hill.

The defensive lineman’s junior-year highlights:

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Ike Anigbogu expected to play Sunday in NCAA Tournament

UCLA forward Ike Anigbogu dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon State, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

After missing UCLA’s first-round game against Kent State on Friday with a sprained foot, forward Ike Anigbogu is slated to make his NCAA Tournament debut in the second round against Cincinnati.

Head coach Steve Alford said Saturday that he expects Anigbogu to play Sunday. Before practice, the 6-foot-10 freshman was seen without his protective walking boot.

“He’s improving great and we expect him to play,” Alford said.

The coach added that Anigbogu was “pretty close” to playing Friday, but said “it’s always the student-athlete’s best interest in mind first and we felt like he needed more time.”

Freshman Lonzo Ball‘s bruised hip shouldn’t be a problem. Alford said he believes Ball will be “close to 100 percent tomorrow” and that the hard fall just “stung him a little bit.”

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UCLA women’s basketball hosts Boise State to open NCAA Tournament

Head Coach Cori Close works with Monique Billings, left, and Ashley Hearn during women’s basketball practice at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA on Monday, November 7, 2016. (Photo by Scott Varley/SCNG, file)

The UCLA women’s basketball team starts its NCAA Tournament run Saturday at Pauley Pavilion, hosting Boise State at 3:30 p.m. PT on ESPN2.

The fourth-seeded Bruins, with a 27-game home winning streak, are trying to reach their second straight Sweet 16. However, UCLA is staying focused on its first-round task against the No. 13 Broncos.

“You can’t get ahead of yourself,” Jordin Canada said. “I think that’s what we’re good at is on focusing on one game at a time.”

Canada leads the Bruins with 18 points, 6.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds, but she is far from the only star for UCLA. Monique Billings is one of the best defensive players in the conference, and averages a double-double (16.8 points and 10.7 rebounds). Kari Korver stretches the floor with her sharp long-range shooting.

It’s great chemistry that allows so many players to flourish for the Bruins while they chase postseason success.

“People aren’t afraid to challenge each other and just really get in each other’s faces about what needs to happen,” Billings said. “If I mess up on defense, if I’m not handling my assignment, Kari is going to come up to me and say, “Mo, get yourself together. This isn’t you.’”

No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 12 Penn play the other first-round game at Pauley Pavilion State at 6 p.m. PT.

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