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    Londynn Jones’ career night helps UCLA women get payback against Utah
    • February 23, 2024

    LOS ANGELES — The UCLA women’s basketball team often blocks off a portion of its practice to run over actions intended to feed a player who has the “hot hand.”

    On Wednesday, that player was Londynn Jones.

    For 15 minutes, each set was created for her to be the go-to scoring option. She’d pop off elevator screens, curl to the basket and shoot off the catch.

    That drill showed its worth on Thursday night when Jones scored a career-high 23 points and made a career-high seven 3-point shots as the 12th-ranked Bruins never trailed while routing No. 18 Utah, 82-52, to avenge an overtime loss a month ago.

    While Wednesday’s drill was curated to Jones, it seemed like it could have been anyone in that spot based on the Bruins’ offensive showing on Thursday. They shot 49% from the field and 39% from 3-point range, assisting on 24 of their 32 field goals.

    Lauren Betts had 14 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots for the Bruins (21-5 overall, 10-5 Pac-12), while Charisma Osborne had 13 points, five rebounds and seven assists. Betts anchored a defense that held Utah (19-8, 9-6) – the NCAA’s No. 6 offense in points per game – to its second-lowest total of the season.

    UCLA, which snapped a three-game skid against the Utes after losing 94-81 in Salt Lake City, started the rematch on a 12-0 run that was sparked by its defense and Betts’ quick decision-making on offense.

    The Bruins forced three turnovers in the opening two minutes, the first two coming on entry passes to Alissa Pili. Pili led the Utes with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but she was an inefficient 4-of-11 shooting from the field, often deterred by Betts’ length. She scored half of her points by making all 10 of her free-throw attempts.

    To get their leading scorer going, the Utes put her in ball screen actions that forced a guard to switch onto Pili in the post. UCLA countered that by hounding entry passes and creating turnovers that led to transition opportunities.

    With nine seconds remaining in the first half, Betts reached across the paint for a second-chance layup that put UCLA ahead 39-25 at halftime.

    The Utes briefly cut the margin to nine in the third quarter, but the Bruins extended their lead quickly after by getting it inside to Betts, who embraced the defensive double-teams and sprayed the ball to open teammates on the perimeter.

    The Bruins dominated the third, allowing just nine points while outscoring the Utes 20-2 in one stretch. Pili had just four in the period when the Bruins led 59-34 going into the fourth.

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    Jones hit three 3-pointers during the Bruins’ run. Betts launched the spurt by grabbing Kiki Rice’s missed 3-point attempt and scoring. A couple of plays later, Betts snagged a defensive rebound and passed to Rice, who fed Angela Dugalic for a basket. Rice finished with 13 points and six assists.

    Jones made two more 3-pointers in the fourth.

    Utah’s Jenna Johnson caught an elbow in the head from Christeen Iwuala in the first quarter. She was bloodied and left the court to get stitches. She returned after halftime but didn’t score.

    The Utes, who came in off a one-point upset of then-No. 8 Colorado, could never get untracked against the Bruins’ defense. They committed 20 turnovers that led to 26 UCLA points.

    More to come on this story.

    ​ Orange County Register