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UCLA women’s basketball hands USC its first loss in historic crosstown matchup

Sophomore guard Londynn Jones dribbles down the court. Jones scored 21 points, including five made 3-pointers, against the Trojans on Saturday night. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

Women’s Basketball


No. 6 USC64
No. 2 UCLA71

By Gavin Carlson

Dec. 30, 2023 7:35 p.m.

In front of the largest home crowd in program history, Londynn Jones drew up another scoring masterpiece against the Trojans.

After scoring 22 points in her team’s one-point home victory against its rivals last season, the sophomore guard exploded once again for five 3-pointers and 21 points as No. 2 UCLA women’s basketball (12-0, 1-0 Pac-12) handed No. 6 USC (10-1, 0-1) its first loss of the season Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins emerged victorious in the first meeting of undefeateds in the rivalry’s history and their first sellout since Pauley Pavilion expanded its capacity in 2012.

Jones – who made a season-high eight field goals and went 5-of-8 from behind the arc – said she was tonight’s hot-hand in an offense that looks to feed its best scorers in each game.

“My team does a really good job of finding me and just looking for the person that’s hot in general,” Jones said. “It’s not always me, but we do a really good job of making sure we do find that person, and when we do, we continue to go to them.”

Jones didn’t score in the first quarter, but UCLA started hot in front of its sold-out crowd, outscoring USC 14-2 over the opening eight minutes of the game.

The Bruins hit a pair of 3-pointers in the opening two and a half minutes – including a triple from graduate student guard Charisma Osborne – to jump out to a 8-0 lead. With her 3, Osborne became UCLA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers with 257 over her five-year career.

A separate 6-0 spurt gave the Bruins their 12-point lead nearing the end of the period. But then, the JuJu Watkins show began.

The freshman guard entered Saturday’s showdown second in the nation averaging 26.8 points per game, but she opened her Pac-12 account 0-of-4 from the field as USC missed its first nine shots of the contest.

But when the face of the Trojans’ offense arrived, so did the rest of their squad.

Watkins scored six consecutive points to jumpstart a 9-0 USC run in the final two minutes of the first quarter. Despite shooting 2-of-11 from the field, turning the ball over six times and attempting 11 fewer shots in the opening 10 minutes, the Trojans cut the Bruins’ lead to three heading into the second.

And Watkins was just warming up.

The 6-foot-2 star capped off another individual six-point scoring spurt with a fastbreak 3 to earn USC its first lead of the game at 17-15. UCLA missed six consecutive shots to fall to 5-of-25 shooting from the field and watch its early 12-point lead disappear. 

Sophomore center Lauren Betts – who finished with 15 points on a season low 45.5% shooting from the field – said the team struggled during intense stretches.

“I think when things started to get a little hectic we just felt a little rushed, and then we just kind of got in our heads,” Betts said. “I’ll be the first one to say I was in my head the first half.”

Despite Betts’ struggles, the Bruins then relied on individual scoring excellence of their own to close out the first half with a lead.

Jones – who scored 22 points against USC last season – hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions to spark a stretch in which UCLA made 11 of its next 13 shots .

The Bruins made seven of their final eight shots of the first half to begin the scoring outburst, but Watkins and guard/forward McKenzie Forbes had a response for every basket. The USC backcourt duo combined for 22 points in the second quarter to finish with 30-combined points for the half, but UCLA entered the second half leading 38-37.

“I thought Forbes and Watkins were amazing,” said coach Cori Close. “They gave us everything we could handle.”

Sophomore guard Kiki Rice rises for a layup against her defender. Rice scored 12 points against USC on Saturday night. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

As the Watkins and Forbes show temporarily slowed down to begin the third quarter, the Bruins’ offense kept its foot on the gas.

Sophomore guard Kiki Rice scored UCLA’s first eight points of the second half to ignite a 14-4 run over the first six and a half minutes of the third period. Watkins and Forbes combined for eight points in the final 2:10 of the quarter, but an Osborne jumper gave the Bruins a 58-51 lead heading into the final 10.

Despite one final push from USC’s scoring duo, Jones came through again in the final period to ice out the UCLA victory.

After a 5-0 run to begin the fourth from Forbes, the Bruins’ 5-foot-4 guard responded with a basket. When Watkins followed with a 3-pointer, Jones drilled a long-range jumper to match.

Jones scored eight of UCLA’s 13 fourth-quarter points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to counter 10 combined points from Forbes and Watkins.

Despite 50 points from the Trojans’ backcourt duo alone, the Bruins held their rivals’ remaining seven players to just 14 points. 

Meanwhile, UCLA had four players in double digits, thus giving Pauley Pavilion’s record setting sell-out crowd a Bruin victory in the top-6 rivalry contest.

“Being from Cali (California), it means everything just seeing everyone out here with the support,” Jones said. “It’s tremendous. We appreciate it so much.”

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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