Photos: UCLA women’s basketball falls to No. 1 UConn

Click the photo above or (HERE) to see photos of No. 5 UCLA’s 78-60 loss to No. 1 Connecticut at Pauley Pavilion on Tuesday.

Above, clockwise from top left: UConn head coach Geno Auriemma cheers on his team from the bench; UCLA forward Monique Billings tries to box out UConn’s Azurá Stevens; UCLA guard Jordin Canada pushes the ball up court; UCLA head coach Cori Close talks to Canada. (All photos by Scott Varley/SCNG)

UCLA women’s basketball picked to win Pac-12 in preseason poll

UCLA guard Jordin Canada goes to the basket past Boise State forward Shalen Shaw during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA women’s college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. UCLA won 83-56. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

With four starters returning from last year’s Sweet 16 team, the UCLA women’s basketball team was picked to win the Pac-12 in the preseason coaches poll, the conference announced Wednesday.

The Bruins are coming off back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances for the first time in school history. They received 115 points and seven first-place votes to lead the coaches poll.

UCLA was also picked to win the conference last year, but finished fourth.

Senior guard Jordin Canada led the conference in assists (7.12) and steals (2.5) last year. The L.A. native was third in the Pac-12 in scoring with 17.8 points per game. She was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-Pac-12 and All-Pac-12 Defensive Team honors for the second straight year.

Senior forward Monique Billings was named All-Pac-12 and All-Pac-12 Defensive Team after starting all 34 games for the Bruins. He was the second-leading rebounder in the conference with 10.5 boards per game.

Full preseason women’s basketball coaches poll, with number of first-place votes in parentheses:

1. UCLA (7) 115
T2. Oregon (3) 108
T2. Stanford (2) 108
4. Oregon State 85
5 California 83
6. Arizona State 74
7. Washington State 61
8. USC 47
9. Utah 40
10. Colorado 38
11. Arizona 20
12. Washington 13

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.

Jordin Canada wins Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year

Jordin Canada (left) was voted the Pac-12 defensive player of the year by the media. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

One day after Pac-12 coaches voted her to a second-straight all-conference defensive team, UCLA junior guard Jordin Canada won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award, which was voted on by the media.

Canada leads the Pac-12 in steals with 2.48 per game as UCLA is second in the conference in steals (10.38) and turnover margin (+5.21).

The junior who earned an honorable mention All-American nod last year also leads the conference in assists (6.72) and was voted to the media’s All-Pac-12 first team, along with junior forward Monique Billings.

Both Billings and Canada were voted to the media All-Pac-12 defensive team.

Jordin Canada, Monique Billings voted All-Pac-12

UCLA’s Jordin Canada was named to the All-Pac-12 team for the third straight year. (Photo by Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Junior guard Jordin Canada and junior forward Monique Billings were voted to the 15-person All-Pac-12 women’s basketball team, the conference announced Tuesday.

Canada earned her second straight nod to the all-conference team after leading the Bruins in scoring with 17.5 points.

Billings had a breakout year, averaging a double-double (17.1 points and 10.8 rebounds). She tied a UCLA single-game record for rebounds against Washington State on Feb. 19 when she pulled down 25 boards in a 67-48 victory.

The duo was also named to to the All-Pac-12 defensive team with Canada becoming a two-time all-defensive player.

Sophomore guard Kennedy Burke was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

The No. 15 Bruins start postseason play Friday in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament. With the No. 4 seed, UCLA got a first-round bye and will face the winner of Utah vs. Arizona State at 2 p.m. on Friday (Pac-12 Networks).