Londynn Jones has a career night as No. 12 UCLA routs No. 18 Utah

UCLA guard Londynn Jones (3) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game.
UCLA guard Londynn Jones, shown here playing against USC on Dec. 30, finished with a career-high 23 points in the Bruins' 82-52 win Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The shots kept falling. The crowd’s cheers grew louder. Londynn Jones’ face stayed straight.

Draining threes is just what the UCLA sophomore does.

Jones’ career-high 23 points, including seven-of-10 three-point shooting, led No. 12 UCLA to an 82-52 win over No. 18 Utah on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. Jones celebrated her red-hot shooting, which included a career best for three-pointers in a game, but was most proud of her defense with two steals and one block. The Bruins limited Utah’s offense that averages 81.3 points per game to its second-lowest scoring night of the season.

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“I’m really passionate about defense just because the size that I am, I have to be able to do that,” the 5-foot-4 Jones said. “The offense is always good when my shots are falling but my team does a really good job of getting me the ball as well.”

Sophomore center Lauren Betts, who had 14 points and six rebounds, anchored the defense that held Pac-12 player of the year Alissa Pili to 20 points and 11 rebounds on five-of-13 shooting. Fifth-year guard Charisma Osborne had 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds. The program’s second-leading scorer with 2,185 points now has 803 career rebounds, becoming the second Pac-12 guard to reach 2,000 points and 800 rebounds, following Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu.

The Bruins (21-5, 10-5 Pac-12) entered the weekend in a tie with the Utes (19-8, 9-6 Pac-12) for fifth in the conference with two weeks remaining before the Pac-12 tournament. After Stanford, which is 12-2, five teams separated by one game are fighting for the final three first-round byes in the tournament.

Hosting Utah and No. 11 Colorado, which is in a three-team logjam for second in the standings at 10-4, the Bruins understand what’s at stake this weekend. It’s exactly why coach Cori Close has deleted apps like ESPN from her phone, eliminating any potential distractions.

“All of the pressure or just sort of distractions come from living from past regret or fear of the future or being outcome driven,” Close said this week. “Whichever of the teams can stay most present focused over the next four games one by one and not just have that be lip service, I think those are going to be the ones that end up on top.”

UCLA was laser-focused from the start Thursday.

The Bruins raced to a 12-0 lead, forcing three Utah turnovers before the Utes scored their first basket. They polished off the first half with six consecutive points to take a 14-point lead at the break. They piled on with a 14-0 run during the third quarter that pushed their lead to 27. A sixth three-pointer from Jones, who leads the Pac-12 in three-pointers per game, put the Bruins up by 30 early in the fourth.

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Utah had more turnovers (20) than field goals (17). The Utes made just two shots in the third quarter on 16 attempts.

“This really means a lot,” Close said, “because to play the kind of defense we played against one of the best offensive teams in the country I just think earns us a lot of confidence.”

After beginning the season with 14 consecutive wins, rising to the highest ranking in school history at No. 2 and looking like a national championship contender, the Bruins lost five games in the last six weeks. Their confidence was shaken. On Thursday, they built it back up every time Jones calmly hit another three-pointer.

“I think that if we play the way we did today,” Betts said, “no one's going to be able to stop us.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.