But the end result was the same, as the Women of Troy dropped their fourth straight game to their crosstown rivals, 74-67.
“It was a heck of a basketball game. UCLA proved why they’re the No. 10 team in the country,” said USC coach Michael Cooper. “I have to commend our team, these young ladies were playing their hearts out. If nothing else, we made [UCLA] shake a little bit.”
The game marked the fourth loss for the Women of Troy (13-8, 5-5) in their last five games, and their second straight at home.
The teams traded baskets throughout most of the first half, with three lead changes and four ties.
With the score deadlocked 14-14 with 9:53 remaining in the first half, it looked as though it would be a defensive battle between the Pac-10 foes.
But both teams started a flurry of scoring before halftime.
The Bruins (19-2, 9-1) relied on offensive rebounding and second-chance points to stake out a 37-33 halftime lead.
Dixon briefly left the game with 2:23 remaining with a shoulder injury.
But she returned before halftime, laying in a basket with less than a minute remaining to give the Bruins their largest lead of the game, 37-29.
“[Dixon] is a solid post player. She works hard for every point she gets.” said USC junior guard Ashley Corral.
But the Women of Troy managed to keep up with their rivals, forcing a couple of turnovers in the final minute of the first half to close the deficit to 37-33.
UCLA came into the game with the better statistical defense, but USC forced the Bruins into 17 turnovers in the game while committing only 14 of their own, most of which came in the last few minutes of the game.
“Once we got across half-court, we handled their trap [defense],” Corral said. “I didn’t think their pressure affected us a whole lot. I thought we did a lot better [than last time].”
Senior guard Jacki Gemelos led the Trojans in scoring with 16 points, and kept USC within striking distance throughout the game.
“I just found the open gaps and took my shot when it was open,” Gemelos said.
Gemelos converted her third three-pointer of the game early in the second half to bring her team within one point, 45-44.
She finished with a team-high 16 points off the bench.
After that, the teams traded scoring runs. The Bruins went on a 12-4 run to gain their largest lead of the game.
But the Women of Troy refused to collapse, responding with a 12-5 run to close the deficit to 62-60 with 3:56 remaining in the game.
But the Women of Troy couldn’t quite regain the lead. With more than a minute remaining, UCLA collected a crucial offensive rebound while up 66-62.
“When you play a top-10 team, it’s about the little things,” Cooper said. “Obviously, the way we were outrebounded [37-25] didn’t help.”
The Trojans turned the ball over on their next two possessions, nailing their own coffin and sealing the game for the Bruins.
The Women of Troy now sit at fifth place in the Pac-10, half a game behind Arizona State and California, which own 6-5 conference records.
USC continues the second half of conference play with trips to Oregon and Oregon State next week.