Los Angeles – No. 10 UCLA ran away from arch rival USC Sunday to tie a program record.
The 83-59 rout, in front of a packed house, matched a 1980-81 mark for best season start, at 12-0. Michaela Onyenwere and Japreece Dean each scored 21 points for the Bruins, while freshman Charisma Osborne had 12 points and 10 rebounds. It was the first conference match up for both teams.
Dean, a senior, said she and her teammates are enjoying themselves.
“Every day in the huddle I just tell people to bring joy and have fun,” she said. “I think that’s what we’re doing. It’s fun to be here right now and have this record.”
UCLA got out to a fast start, as Onyenwere scored 13 points in the first quarter – more than the Trojans as a whole – to end the period with a 21-10 lead. The Trojans went on a run to start the third quarter, trimming their opponents’ 11-point halftime lead to seven at the 6:10 mark. But the Bruins punched back with a run of their own, and pushed their lead back up to 21 by the end of the frame. USC got no closer than 19 points the rest of the way.
Freshman Alissa Pili had a career-high 28 points for the Trojans, while Aliyah Jeune scored 11.
UCLA coach Cori Close said she was pleased with Onyenwere’s scoring, the defense of Dean and Osborne, and increased three-point shooting from her team. But she said that lapses in focus in the third period is something to work on as the team prepares to host No. 18 Arizona and Arizona State this weekend.
“At a timeout, coach Cori challenged us and said we weren’t doing a great job,” Onyenwere said. “After that we got three straight stops – that’s something we call a kill – so we got back to our defensive intensity and caused them to turn the ball over.”
USC has seven freshmen and two sophomores, and has had at least three players out with injury so far this season. Coach Mark Trakh said their inexperience showed against the older Bruin squad.
“There were times when we had five freshmen out there for extended periods,” Trakh said. “It’s a learning experience. We’re going through the brick and mortar days for our program. We’re building on this freshman class, and eventually we can be really competitive, but (that will come from) experience. We’ve just got to be patient.”
Trakh said the game was a wake up call for the Trojans.
“This was a great experience for our young team, and hopefully we’ve learned how hard you have to play in the Pac-12,” he said. “When you’re that young, you’ve got to really experience it. I think we’re better than what we showed tonight. UCLA is very good, very experienced.”
The Bruins, coincidentally, honored 30 player alumni at halftime, including Jordin Canada, who plays for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. Close said matching the program record on the day former players were there was meaningful.
(“Tying the record) says a lot about the people that came before us,” she said. “It is with great humility, but great awareness, that this is a special place with a lot of special people that have helped us.”