UCLA beats West Virginia, 62-60, in women's NIT final

UCLA beats West Virginia, 62-60, in women's NIT final
UCLA players celebrate after their 62-60 win over West Virginia in the WNIT championship basketball game on Saturday. (Tyler Evert / AP)

The gap in the middle of West Virginia's defense was a repeating invitation that UCLA freshman Jordin Canada couldn't pass up.

Canada drove to the basket often and scored a season-high 31 points to lead UCLA to a 62-60 win over West Virginia for the Women's National Invitation Tournament championship Saturday.

Canada was the only double-figure scorer for the Bruins (19-18) and was selected the tournament's most valuable player.

"The driving lane was wide open," Canada said. "I just tried to attack the basket as much as I can."


West Virginia had success in keeping UCLA's Kari Korver and Nirra Fields in check. Korver had made 12 of 17 three-pointers in her three previous games and was limited to five points Saturday. Fields, who had averaged 20 points in the tournament, finished with two points on 0-for-9 shooting.

But West Virginia's focus on Korver and Fields meant more chances for Canada.

"They had to expend a lot of defensive energy to take those two guards away," said UCLA Coach Cori Close, who said that made the decision easy to let Canada keep shooting.

"Late in the game, all I was like is keep the ball in her hands, get out of her way," Close said.

Canada made nine of 19 shots and 13 of 15 free throws.

"Give her credit," said West Virginia Coach Mike Carey. "She attacked."

Stewart, Semrau win top AP awards

Breanna Stewart has joined another exclusive club, and she is only a junior.

Connecticut's versatile star is the winner of the Associated Press player of the year award for the second consecutive year, becoming just the fifth player to accomplish the feat. Florida State's Sue Semrau was selected as coach of the year for the first time.

Stewart, a unanimous All-American for the second straight season, got 20 votes from the 35-member national media panel that selects the weekly top 25. Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd received the other 15 votes. It was the closest race since 2007, when Courtney Paris edged Candace Parker and Lindsey Harding by two votes.

Stewart joined Brittney Griner, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Chamique Holdsclaw as the only two-time winners. No player has won the award three times.

While this is somewhat old hat for Stewart, Semrau earned her first AP coach of the year honor.

Semrau guided the Seminoles to their best season ever. Florida State made it to the regional finals of the NCAA tournament before losing to South Carolina. It also won a school-record 32 games, including 14 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and reached the conference tournament final for the first time in school history.

Women's Final Four

South Carolina (34-2) plays Notre Dame (35-2) in the first NCAA women's national semifinal at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Tampa, Fla. Two-time defending champion Connecticut (36-1) takes on Maryland (34-2) in the second semifinal at 5:30 p.m.