Saturday’s game between the UCLA and USC women’s basketball teams was expected to be a slugfest.
The Women of Troy were riding a six-game win streak, and the Bruins were coming off back-to-back wins after their first loss of the season. It was a chance for either team to not only own bragging rights on the L.A. basketball scene, but also to establish itself atop the Pac-10 conference.
But when the final buzzer sounded in Pauley Pavilion, it looked like only one team was able to land any punches, as No. 12 UCLA defeated USC 61-42.
The USC starting lineup held a definite height advantage against UCLA but could not do anything with it. Instead, it was UCLA (13-1, 3-0 Pac-10), led by junior forward Jasmine Dixon, that played a style that challenged the height of its opponents.
The first Bruin to score 20 points in a game all year, the 6-foot Dixon put on a show in the key against the taller Women of Troy, displaying skillful footwork and a variety of moves. Dixon’s dominance helped fuel the Bruins’ efforts inside as UCLA outscored USC (10-4, 2-1) in the paint 30-8.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know I had 20 (points),” Dixon said. “I was just playing, trying to get back into rhythm because of my past couple of games. So whatever was there I just took it. I wasn’t forcing anything. … If I had the open lane I just took it.”
UCLA’s ability to get its post players involved has been an issue this season and played a big part in its only loss of the year, against Louisiana State on Dec. 28, in which Dixon scored only five points.
After the display on Saturday, it seems the post-play dilemma is starting to solve itself.
“They work extremely hard,” coach Nikki Caldwell said. “We spend a lot of time on skill work, setting and using screens … the very, very fundamentals of the game. And it’s going to pay off for them.”
Aside from the opening minutes, the game was never really close, and with one minute, 57 seconds left in the game, UCLA stretched its lead to 25 points, the largest it would be all day.
They held a lead for most of the game, but the Bruins still put on a show for the 6,675 in attendance, highlighted by sophomore forward Markel Walker’s late-game block on USC senior center Kari LaPlante.
The play was icing on the cake for a Bruin defense that held the Women of Troy to just 27 percent shooting. The rivalry has gone back and forth, and wins have come and gone, so after Saturday’s game, when asked whether she thought UCLA women’s basketball now rules the L.A. area, senior guard Doreena Campbell seemed hesitant to claim supremacy just yet.
“They say you’re only as good as your last game … so for today ““ yes,” Campbell said.
But before Campbell could answer the question at the postgame press conference, there was a faint whisper coming through the microphone at the opposite end of the table where Dixon was sitting.
“I do … I do.”