UCLA 87, USC 75

UCLA surged late in the second half Sunday afternoon to decisively beat USC, 87-75. The win marked the first time the Bruins had defeated the Trojans in the regular season in over four years, snapping a seven-game losing streak to USC.

“I told the team, ‘this is going to be our game,’ and they bought into it,” Coach Nikki Caldwell said.

It was USC that got off to a strong start, taking a quick 10-2 lead in just over two minutes of play. Ashley Corral hit some crucial shots, as did Nadia Parker, and the Trojans seemed particularly adept at breaking UCLA’s full-court press.

Then the Bruins ralled with a 9-0 run to take their first lead, 11-10, at the 15:29 mark. USC fired back, and were still in the lead by a few at about 6:45, when UCLA made another 9-0 run to regain the lead. Bruin guard Doreena Campbell scored five of her team’s points during the last few minutes of the half, and UCLA lead 40-34 going into the locker room.

USC scored the first eight points of the second half, including buckets by Briana Gilbreath and Camille LeNoir. By the 16:24 mark, the Trojans were ahead 45-41. A few moments later, when Bruin reserve guard Alison Taka hit a three to tie the score, a basket-trading fest began. The lead changed eight times before UCLA freshman Rebekah Gardner hit a three to tie the game at 58, with under 10 minutes to play. This sparked a 14-2 Bruin run, and the team never looked back.

Campbell was amazing, with 20 point, nine rebounds and four assists. Gardner scoried a career-high 13 points. But the Beast of the Day Award went to Chinyere Ibekwe, who wrestled down 10 rebounds and put up 17 points. She was under the basket everytime it mattered yesterday, and her defense helped shut USC down.

And speaking of defense, USC’s Brynn Cameron never had a chance yesteday, as she was consistently double- and triple-teamed. She scored only three points. The Trojans that shone were LeNoir, with 20 points, and Corral, with 16.

After lapsing the last several games in rebounds, the Bruins were back up to where they were earlier in the season, grabbing 55 team boards yesterday. They only committed 14 turnovers. This appears to be what won the game for the Bruins, as they shot 37.3 for the game to the Trojans’ 43.8.

And what is indeed up with USC? I’ve been wondering that for weeks now – especially after seeing them lose to Duke a few weeks ago. The Trojans are obviously loaded with talent, especially in the shooting department. I don’t understand how a team this stacked with All-Americans could have an 8-6 record.

A USC fan who attends every game said it’s the irregular rotations and erratic substitutions that throw the players off; they can’t get into a rhythm.

Whatever the case, it’s unfortunate that those players are under-utilized.

Notes:

– Tierra Henderson played her first game since being suspended prior to the Dec. 14 game for a violation of team rules. She played 16 minutes and had one assist, two points and three rebounds. It was nice to see her back.

– Jasmine Dixon, who joined the team last week after transferring from Rutgers, took the mic prior to the game and welcomed the 5,203 fans present. She sat with the Bruins, in street clothes, on the bench.

– It was such a pleasure to see that many fans at Pauley Pavilion for the game. The student section even stood throughout the game and made noise, just like they’re supposed to.

UCLA staffers said the large number of kids at the game was due to a “UCLA Day” tour they had that day.

– Celebrity sightings: Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman. She sat courtside during the game, and at halftime came into Daniel’s and my section to say hello to people. It was nice to see her.

UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel was also there to take in the game. I’ve heard from a reputable source that he’s very friendly with and supportive of the women’s basketball team.

Next up for UCLA is Arizona State, on Thursday.

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