After dropping five straight Pac-12 games, the Trojans looked to right the ship in rivalry play against No. 11 UCLA. Unfortunately, player absences and the type of offensive struggles that have plagued the team in recent games came back to haunt them. UCLA ultimately dominated en route to a 74-59 victory.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of being aggressive and going to the rim,” said head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. “Getting to the basket and getting to the free throw line. Executing our offense and not make so many mistakes on defense.”
USC got off to a promising, if tenuous start. The team took a 14-13 lead exiting the first quarter, but it was mostly a mirage. Getting dominated in the paint and allowing 10 offensive rebounds, the early Trojan advantage was thanks only to a barrage of three pointers. Senior Courtney Jaco swished three of them in the first frame, and freshman Minyon Moore added another right as time expired.
However, aside from the deep shot, USC could muster little offense. They scored just two points in the first five minutes of the second quarter. UCLA forward Monique Billings and her squad used USC’s offensive ineptitude to its advantage, outscoring the home team 27-8 in the second. Billings herself had 14 first half points. The junior finished with 28 points.
Down 40-22 entering the second half, the Women of Troy knew they needed a massive offensive turnaround to fight back into the game. They provided an initial spark, going on a quick 7-0 run that included a Jaco 3-pointer, but soon after the struggle continued. UCLA marched out on another huge run leading by as many as 20 points and entering the fourth with a commanding 62-45 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Bruins expanded on the damage they had already inflicted. They held the Trojans to another deflating scoring drought of over five minutes, ending any hopes of a miraculous Trojan comeback.
Her team may have stumbled, but Courtney Jaco had a standout game against her crosstown rivals. The sharpshooter from Compton, Calif. went for 27 points on 7-11 three point shooting, both career highs.
“Once the first two [threes] went in, I got a lot of confidence of off that,” Jaco said. “The game was going so fast that I didn’t even realize anything. I was just trying to do anything to help my team in that situation.”
Many of USC’s recent offensive issues can be attributed to the absence of junior forward Kristen Simon. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder left the team due to personal reasons last week and the Trojans have dropped all three games without her. Lacking someone to fill her role against a tall UCLA team, USC’s inside offense was negligible. The coaching staff has offered no timetable for her return.
Luckily for the Trojans, they will get a chance to exact revenge this Sunday, as they play UCLA again at Pauley Pavilion. USC should not have too big of an adjustment playing on the road, as the massive UCLA student section present at the Galen Center on Wednesday made it feel like an away game for the Trojans. The section’s loud chants of “This is our house” as the game ended are sure to stick in the minds of Trojan players as they prepare for Sunday.
“Honestly just proving that it’s not their house, it’s our house,” Minyon Moore in response to the opposing crowd’s bold words. “To prove that we run L.A., we have to come back to the game stronger with better attitudes and just try to get the win.”