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Lauren Betts, UCLA women cruise past Arizona State

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JACK MAGRUDER The Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — Lauren Betts had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Kiki Rice added 14 points as No. 8 UCLA beat Arizona State, 70-41, on Thursday night.

Betts had her ninth double-double and Rice added seven assists and seven rebounds for the Bruins (23-5 overall, 12-5 Pac-12), who will finish the series between the teams with a 16-game winning streak.

“The numbers may show better than how we played,” said UCLA coach Cori Close, who was disappointed with the Bruins’ first-half effort. “We realize we have a great opportunity in front of us, but not the rest of the year can we come out with that lackluster effort and focus.

“The next time that happens, you’re done. We’re only guaranteed three more games in this season, and this team has too many special goals to let it be three more. It’s all in front of you. The only thing that can get in our way and can keep us from where we want to go is us.”

The Bruins conclude the regular season on Saturday night at Arizona with a chance to secure the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, which begins Wednesday in Las Vegas. The Sun Devils’ 41 points were UCLA’s season low for an opponent.

“I have to give it to my guards today,” Betts said. “They did a really good job of finding me. It’s that chemistry that we work on every day in practice.”

Jalyn Brown had 14 points and Trayanna Crisp had 13 points for ASU (11-18, 3-14), which has lost three in a row. Brown has scored in double figures in 17 straight games.

Behind the 6-foot-7 Betts, UCLA used its size advantage to take a 52-24 rebound advantage and a 44-16 edge in points in the paint.

UCLA’s switching man-to-man defense limited Arizona State to 28.3% shooting from the field. The Bruins held the Sun Devils to 26.7% shooting in a 78-45 victory at Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 11.

“Our defense, rebounding and passion plays have been our calling card, and that has been a consistent theme for us,” Close said. “We have the ability to switch screens and keep people in front of us. They are not getting clean looks at the basket. Loren is a unicorn that way.”

Dugalić made the play of the game on UCLA’s 10-0 run in the second quarter, when she threw a nifty behind-the-back pass to Rice for a fast-break layup and a 28-16 lead with four minutes remaining. Dugalić had a little smile as she ran back.

UCLA entered with a scoring margin of plus-17.7, 16th in NCAA Division I. The Bruins were playing on short rest after beating No. 13 Colorado, 53-45, at home on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

UCLA: The Bruins were projected as one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament in the selection committee’s latest reveal on Thursday, and they looked it while sweeping the season series from ASU. How deep is the Pac-12? Stanford is another projected NCAA No. 1 seed, and two of the top 18 teams in the AP Top 25 will NOT qualify for a first-round bye in the conference tournament. UCLA can clinch a bye if it wins at Arizona on Saturday, and the Bruins can still finish as high as second. The top four teams receive byes.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils will finish the regular season having taken incremental steps forward in Coach Natasha Adair’s second season, having bumped their win total to 11 with at least two games remaining despite playing without 2022-23 leading scorer Tyi Skinner. They play hard.

UP NEXT

UCLA plays at Arizona on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT

No. 8 UCLA handles Arizona State for their fourth straight win! 🐻

Highlights ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/VmbySOkV2j

— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 1, 2024

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