No. 9 UCLA ramps up the defense to shut down USC

Jordin Canada strips Sadie Edwards of the ball, while Kennedy Burke looks on. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.
Jordin Canada strips Sadie Edwards of the ball, while Kennedy Burke looks on. Photo by Maria Noble/WomensHoopsWorld.

Los Angeles – No. 9 UCLA used suffocating zone defense to shut down crosstown rivals USC Friday, 59-46, at Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins limited the Trojans to 20 percent shooting over the first two quarters and won the rebounding battle, 48-33. Their efforts compensated for the fact that they only shot 35 percent on the night themselves.

“Defensive rebounding – thank goodness for that, because we didn’t really play well offensively, and we didn’t play the style that we needed to play,” coach Cori Close said. “We should have been able to get our transition game going. We…..didn’t play nearly as fast as we needed to play.”

Monique Billings put up 14 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for her 40th career double-double for UCLA. Jordin Canada scored 16 points and Kelli Hayes added 11.

The hosts roared out to a 10-0 lead and kept USC from scoring a field goal until the 4:20 mark. Kristen Simon, who led the Trojans with 15 points and 12 rebounds on the night, heated up down the stretch of the first period and ended with seven points to help her team cut the Bruin lead. After similar play from both sides in the second quarter, UCLA led 33-19 at halftime.

USC extended their own defense in the third period limited the Bruins to 25 percent shooting while outscoring them, 14-9. But a six-point, seven-rebound fourth quarter from Billings paced the Bruins, who inflated their lead to 15 with 2:13 to go. A long Canada three-pointer with 25 seconds remaining sealed the win for UCLA.

Close said the raucous crowd of 6,057 helped push the Bruins, as did the fact that Canada was 3-3 from the three-point line. Canada said the team has to push the ball more.

“We can’t be so stagnant,” she said of the third quarter. “I had too many turnovers and was over-penetrating, so it starts with me. We need to be smart with the ball.”

Minyon Moore was the only other Trojan player in double figures, with 10 points. Coach Mark Trakh credited both teams for their defensive efforts.

“Our defense was good, their defense was really good,” he said. “We’ve got an iron five that plays solid minutes for us. I’m proud of the effort and the fact that we could have been blown out, but came back in the second half.”

“They’re long and athletic…..it’s hard to contain them with what they do, but i was proud of our effort, plus performance.”

USC has been beset by injuries this season, and has a seven-player rotation. Trakh said the situation limits their play.

“We have to be more selective (with shots); we’ve gt to stay patient,” he said. “We’ve only got five or six players, so we’ve got to slow it down. Our (first quarter pace) was not the pace we wanted. I’d like to be able to press and run, but we can’t do that just yet.”

The longstanding rivalry lived up to its billing late, as play became more physical. Canada characterized the game as “emotional.”

Both teams have a quick turnaround, as part two of the season matchup is Monday, at USC. In 89 meetings, the Trojans hold a 48-41 lead in the series.