USC falls to UCLA in 68-58 loss at home

USC senior guard Desiree Caldwell watches on as UCLA junior guard Charisma Osborne yells in excitement.
USC senior guard Desiree Caldwell watches on as UCLA junior guard Charisma Osborne yells in excitement. (Patrick Hannan | Daily Trojan)

At the end of the third quarter, the noise in Galen Center came from an odd place — fans wearing Blue and Gold. Waving their hands above their heads, UCLA fans screamed as if a Trojan horse was running toward them, creating an echo throughout the court with loud claps.  

UCLA had seen its half time lead of 9 evaporate in the quarter, only to go up by the same margin five minutes later. One final quarter remained as USC hoped to avenge a 23-point loss from last week where they had 27 turnovers. 

It was a loss that, after the game, Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said was “[not] who we are or who we want to be.”

The Trojans proved their head coach right even in a tough 68-58 loss against the Bruins at Galen Center Sunday night.

“I’m really proud of the effort of our players,” said Gottlieb in a post game press conference Sunday. “I thought our effort was terrific … just really proud of the way we came out today given the tough one the other night.” 

USC cut the lead to 6 points midway through the fourth quarter, but went scoreless for two and a half minutes. It left the door open for a UCLA win, going up 10 with under three minutes left to secure the victory.

In her final rivalry game, senior guard Tera Reed had a team high 13 points on an efficient 5-for-8 shooting. Sophomore forward Jordyn Jenkins and junior forward Alissa Pili also added 13 points.

After shooting 28% from the field in its first meeting, USC shot 41%, while holding UCLA to 40%. Junior guard Charisma Osborne led UCLA with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Senior forward Iimar’i Thomas added 14 points of her own.

Gottlieb inserted freshman center Clarice Akunwafo in the starting lineup for her first start of the season for more size against Thomas, who had 20 points in the Trojans’ first meeting against the Bruins. Akunwafo finished with 9 points. 

“Clarice’s presence on Thomas was important because of her size,” Gottlieb said. “And similarly on the other end, she’s great at finishing around the rim. She understands her role and what she does well.”

USC jumped out of the second half on a 9-0 run, tying the game behind a stifling defense. The Trojans forced 3 turnovers in the third and held UCLA scoreless through the first four minutes. 

The increased activity on defense resulted in easier baskets on the other end. USC turned 10 Bruin turnovers into 14 points, providing further confidence in half court sets. 

After a quiet first half, Thomas caught fire, scoring 6 points in the third to retake the lead. UCLA went on a 8-0 run while the Trojans sank into a scoring slump. 

USC’s defensive rotations on the perimeter were just a step behind in the first quarter, giving up five UCLA 3-pointers early. In the first matchup between the two last Thursday, the Bruins had six 3-pointers the entire game. 

A swing of the ball around the 3-point line often opened up a UCLA player for a shot. The Trojans kept the Bruins’ deep shooting in check — allowing just 1 3-pointer the rest of the game.

Fouls also hurt USC’s defense, with the Bruins shooting 10 free throws in the second quarter alone. UCLA had only 6 attempts from the line in the previous meeting.

“We just focused on [3-point defense] a little bit more,” Gottlieb said. “The first half, they hurt us from the 3-point line and the free-throw line, so we tried to minimize those as much as possible, just fighting through screens a little bit better and communicating.”

UCLA went without a field goal for nearly four minutes in the second quarter, prompting a Trojan comeback. USC chipped away throughout the quarter by taking care of the ball and forcing 3 turnovers from the Bruins. 

The Trojans picked up the pace on offense, playing a more free flow style with penetration to the basket for layups or passes for open threes. USC cut the lead down to as little as 3 points in the second,  butas the half came to a close, UCLA extended its lead to 9. 

The Trojans will next face Oregon State on the road Thursday.