Billings helps UCLA beat American 71-60

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Billings helps UCLA beat American 71-60
American guard Emily Kinneston, right, shoots as UCLA forward Monique Billings, left, defends during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, in Los Angeles, Saturday, March 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Monique Billings scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds, Kennedy Burke added 15 points to lead No. 3 seed UCLA to a 71-60 win over 14th-seeded American University in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Jordin Canada had 10 points and 11 assists for the Bruins (25-7), who advance to the second round.

Cecily Carl led American (26-7) with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Elina Koskimies added 13 points and Maria Liddane scored 12 points.

After the Eagles took an early lead to start the game, the Bruins countered with a 22-3 run over the final 4:33 of the opening quarter to build a double-digit advantage and take control. Billings scored 10 points during the UCLA surge as the Bruins opened a 27-12 lead after the first quarter.

She finished with 12 points in the first half as the Bruins led 38-25 at the break.

American cut the lead to 45-41 following Liddane’s basket at the 4:33 mark of the third quarter but UCLA rallied and upped its lead to 63-48 on a bucket by Lajahna Drummer with 6:48 to play and cruised to the victory.

The Bruins improved 14-2 at home this season and are 45-3 at home over the past three years.

Saturday’s game was the first time the two teams have played against each other.

BIG PICTURE

American: The Eagles have had a historic 2017-18 season, culminating in the program’s second Patriot League Tournament title in four years. Led by the Patriot League Coach of the Year Megan Gebbia and Patriot League Player of the Year, senior Emily Kinneston, AU earned a new program record with its 26 wins and went undefeated at home for the first time since the 1970s at 16-0.

UCLA: The Bruins, led by Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year senior guard Canada, are making their 15th NCAA tournament appearance. UCLA’s best finish was in 1999 when they reached the Elite Eight.

UP NEXT

UCLA: The Bruins will play Iowa or Creighton on Monday in the second round on Monday.