UCLA seniors celebrate last home game with trip to Sweet 16

It was Senior Night on Monday at Pauley Pavilion.

Playing the last home game of their college careers, Dominique Billings, Jordin Canada and Kelli Hayes combined for 23 first-half points as the UCLA women's basketball team cruised past Creighton, 86-64, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The third-seeded Bruins (26-7) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year — a first in program history — and will face second-seeded Texas in the semifinals of the Kansas City regional Friday at 6 p.m. PDT.

"It was special leaving the game for the last time with Mo and Kelli and the crowd cheering," Canada said. "Thinking about what we've built here, why I came here ... it all came back to me. To get a win in my last home game here ever is awesome!"

UCLA is one victory away from its second Elite Eight appearance. The first came in 1999.

"I'm so proud of our players for sustaining their identity and focus for 40 minutes against a really good team," coach Cori Close said. "Our seniors have set a new standard for UCLA and when we finally took them out, I felt like a proud parent."

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA MARCH 19, 2018-UCLA's Jordin Canada gets a pass off despite tripping against
UCLA's Jordin Canada gets a pass off despite tripping against Creighton's Audrey Faber. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

The game was more one-sided than the teams' other meeting in November, when the Bruins pulled away in the second half to prevail 72-63 at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas. This time UCLA shot 57.6 percent from the floor over the first two quarters to forge a 17-point lead.

"We knew we had to dictate better tonight," Canada said. "We saw there were a lot of upsets earlier in the day and we wanted to make sure that's not going to be us."

After Creighton forward Audrey Faber opened the scoring with a three-pointer, UCLA went on a 13-0 run. Hayes and Lajahna Drummer hit jumpers in the lane, Billings made a bank shot and a layup, Kennedy Burke connected from beyond the arc and Canada swished a fadeaway jumper following a timeout.

"UCLA was terrific tonight," Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. "They defended us well, they were sharp offensively, they forced the pace and they pressed more than I expected. We play Marquette and DePaul and those are super up-tempo teams so we're used to it, but we needed to do better from a communication and physicality standpoint. In retrospect maybe we should've played more man-on-man from the beginning."

Creighton (19-13), which finished fourth in the Big East Conference and was seeded 11th, upset sixth-seeded Iowa 76-70 in the first round Saturday, but trailed by as many as 28 in the second half against the Bruins.

"Offensively, they made everything hard for us," said Faber, who had a team-high 20 points. "I didn't do much differently to be honest, I just take what they give me."

Billings finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, Hayes had four points and Canada, a McDonald's All-American at Los Angeles Windward, added 21 points, eight assists and five steals and was subbed out to a standing ovation with 1:57 left.

Japreece Dean scored 16 points, Kennedy Burke had 11 and Drummer added 10 for the Bruins, who improved to 19-1 when scoring at least 70 points and won for the 15th time in 18 games. UCLA is 8-1 all time against Big East opponents.

"I admire our seniors so much and they've been great leaders," said Dean, who didn't play in the first meeting against Creighton. "I'm a point guard also, so Jordin especially I've learned a lot from."