Billings scores 27 to lead No. 9 UCLA to 78-65 win over Iowa
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) UCLA coach Cori Close was more delighted with Monique Billings' performance at the foul line than the career high in points she had.
Billings scored 27 points, going 9 for 9 on free throws, to lead the ninth-ranked Bruins to a 78-65 win over Iowa on Thursday night at the Cancun Challenge.
''I'm so excited for Billings,'' Close said. ''I'm in the business to watch young women grow, and she shot under 50 percent as a freshman and got better as a sophomore. Even a few weeks ago, she had a tough night from the free throw line. I'm thrilled for her career high, but most proud of her growth from the free throw line.''
Billings also made nine of her 12 shots from the field for UCLA (4-1). But the star junior forward was particularly pleased with her perfect night at the foul line.
''I practiced it this week. Struggled last week,'' Billings said. ''I tried to get better at it and happy I finished.''
UCLA led by four at halftime and Iowa (4-2) cut the margin to two early in the third quarter, but was unable to get any closer.
''Compliments to Iowa. I think they are such a fundamentally sound basketball team,'' Close said. ''They know who they are. They play hard. They are really focused to get what they want.''
Jordin Canada and Kennedy Burke each added 13 points for UCLA.
Ally Disterhoft scored 16 points and Megan Gustafson added 15 to lead the Hawkeyes.
''They went mostly zone against us. Surprised how much that really hurt us,'' Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. ''We weren't able to get the ball inside. Megan was doing a great job inside.''
After a back-and-forth first half, UCLA led 42-38 at the break. Trailing 35-30, the Bruins went on a 12-3 run to close the opening 20 minutes.
''We competed with them. Knock down some shots and take care of the ball better and there's always that what if?'' Bluder added.
UCLA: After falling one assist short of a second consecutive triple-double on Sunday, Canada had two rebounds and six assists in this one. ... For the first time since 1999-2000 and the third time in program history, UCLA was picked to win the Pac-12.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes fell to 7-2 all-time in Cancun. ... Coming into the game, the Hawkeyes led the nation in rebounds with 239 in five games. ... Disterhoft has reached double figures in 84 of her 90 career starts.
Iowa sophomore Hannah Stewart tied a career high with 10 points and added six rebounds. Her effort impressed Bluder.
''Hannah did a really good job for us,'' the coach said. ''We need to have more people put the ball in the hole from the outside for us.''
UCLA plays Toledo in its final game in Cancun.
Iowa faces James Madison on Friday in its tournament finale.