The women’s basketball team took on No. 9 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion Friday evening in the first of two back-to-back meetings. While the Bruins protected their home court with a 59-46 victory, the Trojans fought hard against a team with two of the top players in the country.
The Bruins came out strong with a 10-0 run for the lead, in which they wouldn’t lose. However, USC showed they were not going to back down and stayed competitive until the very end.
“It was a defensive game and they jumped on us early,” head coach Mark Trakh said. “They got up and did a really good job defensively. I felt like we came back and cut it to nine to start the fourth and you know, we’ve got like an iron woman five that plays a lot of minutes for us and they play hard and you know they get after it.”
The five starters continued their trend of playing full game minutes, aside from junior guard Aliyah Mazyck who got into early foul trouble.
Senior forward Kristen Simon played 38 of the 40 minutes and finished with her 26th career double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Simon’s main task was containing and getting past UCLA star forward Monique Billings.
While Billings had the height advantage, Simon’s ability to fight for rebounds and make plays kept her and her team in the game. Despite her stature, Simon proved that she is a force to be reckoned with in every game.
“[Simon] is like Billings,” Trakh said. “She is a walking double-double. That kid has got a huge heart and she just battles all the time being undersized … She’s just strong and I thought in that game when we first started that she would be undersized and they would defensively be a problem, but she’s been a great defensive player for us too, so I am very very proud of what [Simon] is able to do. She’s just been a great kid to coach.”
While the Trojans fell short on Friday, they have another chance to face the Bruins. This time though, they will play at the Galen Center with their home crowd behind them. Even though it is a quick turnaround, the team is able to make the changes they need, while the loss is fresh on their minds.
“We’re building and we just gotta keep working and keep grinding and hopefully at our place we will be able to knock down a few more shots,” Trakh said. “But, you know, we scored 46 points … They’ve been doing a really really good job, so we’ve got to watch the tapes, make adjustments …. It’s hard to contain them athletically with what they do, but like I said, I was proud of the effort that the kids put forward.”
If anything, having lost once to the Bruins gives the Trojans an even better reason to come back and beat them the second time around.
“I think just putting the ball in the basket honestly [will be the key to Monday’s game],” sophomore guard Minyon Moore said. “I think we did good rotating the ball and I think we just didn’t get good shots up. I think we just need to go to practice tomorrow and Sunday and work on our offense.”
Along with preparing on the court, the team will also need to get their mindset and attitude in check before their game against the Bruins Monday.
“You know, they got us once, but we come back on Monday,” Moore said.“We just need to stay together, fresh start, 0-0.”
The Trojans will face the Bruins at Galen Center Monday night at 6 p.m.