The outcome never came into question. UCLA started fast, outmuscled, outhustled and outplayed Boise State from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Kelli Hayes made a jumper. Kari Korver knocked down a three-pointer. Kennedy Burke made a layup. Jordin Canada made a layup. And Monique Billings converted a short turnaround jumper.
Five shots and five consecutive baskets. That was just in the opening 3 1/2 minutes.
The fourth-seeded Bruins (24-8) vowed throughout the week to not overlook the 13th-seeded Broncos (25-8) in a first-round game of the NCAA women’s tournament, with a possible matchup against overall top-seeded Connecticut in the Bridgeport, Conn. regional semifinal looming, and made good on their promise Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
The Bruins rolled, 83-56, to advance to a second-round game Monday at Pauley against fifth-seeded Texas A&M (22-11), which mounted 17-point come-from-behind victory over 12th-seeded Pennsylvania.
“I didn’t think it was a very clean game and I didn’t think it had incredible rhythm to it,” UCLA Coach Cori Close said after the win. “But I really did like the energy we played with.”
Said Canada of the fast start: “We realized that it’s one-and-done so you have to come out like that every single time.”
The Bruins shot 58.2% from the field and converted an even more impressive 58.8% from beyond the three-point arc. Canada and Burke, both guards, each notched double-doubles. Canada scored 15 points and dished a school-record-tying 16 assists. Burke scored 14 and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“It’s just Jordin’s ability to get into the lane and that starts our offense and everything else we do,” Close said about the team’s hot shooting. “Our ability to attack into … that sort of eight-foot area right around the goal … it sets up everything else later.”
The Bruins relied heavily this season on strong offensive play of Canada and Billings, but Billings said the team spoke about using a more balanced attack going into the tournament. Billings, who sat most of the fourth quarter because of foul trouble, led all scorers with 19 points. Four Bruins scored in double digits.
“It can’t be just me and Jordin,” Billings said. “The role players, key players, need to step up and I think that’s what they did today.”
Boise State did not anticipate UCLA’s three-point shooting, Coach Gordy Presnell said, but it came as no surprise to Canada, whose 16 assists were the most by a Bruin in an NCAA tournament game.
“I believe in my teammates, even when they do miss,” Canada said. “My shooters, they’re great shooters, so that’s what I tell them every single time.”
UCLA limited Boise State to 21-of-70 shooting and forced 16 turnovers. Brooke Pahukoa and Riley Lupfer each scored 13 points to lead the Broncos, who have yet to win a game in four NCAA tournament appearances.
The only category UCLA lost was rebounding. Boise State dominated the offensive boards and won the rebounding battle, 39-37.
“That’s something we’ve really got to focus on,” Canada said of rebounding. “When we focus on that, we’re really great in transition.”
UCLA opened on a 15-0 run before Boise State made its first basket. The Broncos missed their first nine shots as the Bruins’ defense rattled their confidence.
“I’m really proud of my team for having that focus and coming out as the aggressor,” Billings said.
By halftime UCLA led by 17, fueled by 13-2 run late in the second quarter when Kari Korver, Canada and Burke knocked down consecutive three-pointers.
The Bruins grew their lead to 20, 61-41, in the third quarter, when Nicole Kornet knocked down one of her four three-pointers. She finished with 14 points off the bench.
“We earned 40 more minutes,” Close said. “And that’s what we said — we had to earn 40 more minutes.”