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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (AP) — Monique Billings didn't start for the first time this season after showing up late to a film session.
Once she got on the court, she made her presence felt with 17 points and six blocked shots to help No. 11 UCLA beat pesky Seton Hall 77-68 on Sunday.
"I wanted to play hard for my team," Billing said. "Do the best I can."
UCLA coach Cori Close sat Billings for the first three minutes for the team violation.
"I don't want to make this bigger than it is. She understands being held accountable to those standards, put the team first," Close said. "She was ready when the time came."
The Bruins were the highest-ranked team to play at Seton Hall since coach Tony Bozzella took over in 2013. Top-ranked teams were commonplace when the Pirates were a member of the old Big East that featured UConn and Notre Dame.
In front of a raucous crowd, the Pirates (7-3) hung with their Top 25 opponent behind Donnaizha Fountain and Nicole Jimenez. Both had career highs with Fountain finishing with 23 and Jimenez 20. The backup point guard Jimenez's previous best was eight.
"We put ourselves in a position to win and that's a good step for us right now," Bozzella said.
Every time UCLA (8-2) tried to pull away, the Pirates responded. Seton Hall got within 69-64 on Fountain's jumper with 4:33 left, but could get no closer.
"This is a game where we have a long ways to go. We're not anywhere close to playing the consistent basketball we need to," Close said. "I asked them to grow in some specific ways. Focus on a little bit of growth and not worry about where we are and where we'll be in March."
UCLA scored the first six points and led 15-4 after seven minutes. The Bruins led by double digits for most of the opening 20 minutes and were up 37-25 before Seton Hall closed the half with a 7-2 run to get within 39-32.
WELCOME: UCLA guard Japreece Dean, who transferred from Texas Tech last year, saw her first action of the season. She sat out the first nine games because of NCAA transfer rules. She had eight points.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: UCLA guard Jordin Canada, who scored 11 points with 10 assists, had about 20 friends and family in the crowd. Her mom grew up in Brooklyn, New York and some of her relatives made the trip to New Jersey.
MISSING IN ACTION: Seton Hall was missing guard Inja Butina for the second straight game after breaking her nose against Rutgers.
UCLA plays at Fordham on Wednesday to close out the two-game Tri-State area swing.
Seton Hall hosts Fairfield on Thursday.