Fields leads No. 14 UCLA past No. 9 Arizona State
LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA coach Cori Close admitted doing what she asked her team not to do. She let her thoughts creep into the postseason before Sunday's regular-season finale against No. 9 Arizona State.
''"I didn't sleep much last night,'' Close said after the 14th-rankec Bruins beat the Sun Devils 74-61.
''I knew, just as much as I was telling our team not to, trying not to think about it, I knew that this game would give us a really good chance to host in the NCAA tournament. Honestly, it takes the pressure of, as far as the conference tournament. But the ramifications for this win, the biggest thing is seeding in the NCAA tournament.''
Nirra Fields scored 24 points and Jordin Canada added 22 to help the Bruins win by controlling the perimeter against the Sun Devils.
''Find me a better backcourt in the country,'' Close said. ''And it's not just their offense. They play both ends of the floor. The pressure shots that Nirra hit today. It was fitting for her senior night.''
The Bruins held Arizona States trio of starting guards - Katie Hempen, Arnecia Hawkins and Elisha Davis - to 2-for-22 shooting from the field.
''I don't think we took bad shots,'' Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. ''I think we took shots we normally make at least a decent percentage of.
''But I thought we let our offense affect our defense. The fouls that we got. Katie and Elisha having two fouls in the first quarter really hurt. They got their lead when my starting backcourt was on the bench and we were never really able to totally recover.''
Fields, a senior playing her final regular-season game for the Bruins, and Canada combined to shoot 15 for 33 from the field and 15 for 17 from the free-throw line as UCLA (22-7, 14-4) clinched a tie for third in the conference standings.
''Actually, it was a very emotional day,'' said Fields. ''It's kind of like the playoffs when you want to play your best at that time. A lot of emotions are running. Everybody expecting you to play your best. There was a lot of pressure on myself to do it for the team''
Monique Billings added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Bruins, who outscored the Sun Devils 14-0 in fast-break points and held them to 38-percent shooting to post their sixth victory in seven league games.
Quinn Dornstauder scored 24 points to lead Arizona State (25-5, 16-2), which snapped a seven-game winning streak.
Hempen scored 12 points and Sophie Brunner added 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Sun Devils, who shared the league's regular-season title with Oregon State. The seventh-ranked Beavers beat California 54-44 on Sunday.
The Pac-12 conference tournament is scheduled to begin Thursday in Seattle.
The Bruins led 53-36 with 2:09 left in the third quarter only to see Arizona State reel off a 19-7 spurt, pulling to 60-55 with 3:59 to play. Arizona State got as close as 64-59 before UCLA made 8 of 9 free throws down the stretch.
The Bruins appeared to take control in the second quarter by picking up the tempo, outscoring the Sun Devils 12-0 in fast-break points by halftime. UCLA had a 17-6 run for a 26-16 lead and followed that with 10-4 burst for a 38-25 lead with 55 seconds left in the first half.
Arizona State: For seniors Davis, Eliza Norman, Hawkins and Peace Amukamara, this was their final regular-season game in a Sun Devil uniform.
UCLA: For seniors, Fields and Kacy Swain, the game was their final regular-season game and final game at Pauley Pavilion in a Bruins uniform. The announced crowd for the matchup between ranked teams was 6,972.
The Bruins managed 9 offensive rebounds against the Sun Devils, who came into the game leading the Pac-12 in rebounding defense. Seven of those came in the second half as the Bruins were able to hold off ASU.
''Their rebounding was huge,'' Dornstauder said. ''Rebounding is always a key part of the game, and they did a really good job, and came up with some key rebounds.''
The Bruins opened the game by missing their first six shots. They recovered by making 5 of their next 6. By halftime, they'd made 16 of 30 overall, taking a 38-25 lead on Billings' jumper with 55 seconds left in the half.
Arizona State: Pac-12 tournament.
UCLA: Pac-12 tournament.