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UCLA women’s basketball falls to No. 9 USC in 73-65 upset, ends win streak

Sophomore forward Lina Sontag, sophomore guard Kiki Rice, freshman forward Amanda Muse and sophomore forward Christeen Iwuala stand on the sidelines. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Women’s Basketball


No. 2 UCLA65
No. 9 USC73

By Grace Whitaker

Jan. 14, 2024 5:02 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 16 at 12:20 a.m.

A sold-out Galen Center watched as the second-best team in the nation faltered for the first time this season. 

To split the season crosstown rivalry series, No. 9 USC (13-1, 3-1 Pac-12) dethroned No. 2 UCLA women’s basketball (14-1, 3-1) by a score of 73-65 Sunday afternoon. The Bruins were one of two Division I women’s basketball programs that still carried a spotless record prior to Sunday’s defeat. In addition to forfeiting 23 points off of turnovers, UCLA also presented its season-low 3-point shooting percentage at 18%. 

“They were asking me about being 14-0. I could care less,” said coach Cori Close. “And sometimes, I think it’s a disadvantage, because sometimes it makes blind spots linger around longer than they should.”

A messy first half plagued the Bruins. 

Fifteen turnovers, a 12-7 foul discrepancy that skewed toward UCLA and a 30.4% shooting percentage. 

A whirlwind of woes, all capitalized on by USC. 

“It’s not the rivalry. It’s a top-10 game, sold-out crowd. How could it mean more to somebody else?” Close said. “And that’s something we’re going to deal with.”

In the absence of runs from the Bruins, the Trojans took it upon themselves to make the most of the lull. Following an initial scoring drought, USC entered an 11-0 run within 4:30 toward the end of the first quarter. UCLA was outrebounded 13-9, committed two more fouls than USC and went 0-for-6 from behind the arc. 

Coming into the second frame, UCLA’s control returned momentarily, bringing its trail to just one point behind USC. 

Coach Cori Close stands on the sidelines with her hands on her head. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)

But then came Trojan guard JuJu Watkins. 

Across the remaining seven minutes in the half, Watkins scored 10 points amid a 17-3 run from USC. The Watkins-led surge inflated the score to 34-19. However, Watkins was not the only source of fuel for the fire. UCLA also added to its opponent’s success. 

Ten of the Bruins’ 15 turnovers came in the second quarter, coupled with another series of fouls that doubled USC’s. And nearly every Bruin on the roster scored zero points to top it off. UCLA’s lone leader of the quarter emerged in the same moments, however, with sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez collecting nine points in the second, notching a 3-for-3 clip from deep. 

Close said a combination of a lack of toughness and technical errors led to the end result.

“Most of the time, the more urgent, aggressive team wins, and that wasn’t us,” Close said. “Everybody has a portion of the blame, and we didn’t execute to get the ball inside. We didn’t do a lot of different things.”

The second half provided a similar story. 

Graduate student guard Charisma Osborne began to chip away at the deficit, contributing 15 points in the third quarter alone – her final total was a season-high 25. But an added 10 team fouls and another 0-for-5 performance from deep by the Bruins maintained a steady Trojan lead that settled at nine at the end of the third.

Close said Osborne’s fight was the glimmer of hope amid her team’s struggles.

“Heart and soul plays both ends of the floor, never stopped leading, never stopped believing,” Close said. “She’s the one that came in behind when I lit them up. … I’m really, really proud of how she led today.”

The two programs traded runs during the fourth quarter with the scoring slated at 14-12 in favor of UCLA with 2:39 to go. But foul trouble came into effect in the final frame with sophomore forward Lina Sontag fouling out, and 10 players across both programs contributing three or more personal fouls each.

UCLA claimed four consecutive scoring possessions totaling nine points from Osborne and sophomore guard Londynn Jones in the waning moments, but its run was quickly answered by four points from USC. Moments later, Jones nabbed a defensive rebound and drove down the court, scoring a contested reverse layup with just over a minute to go to make it a five-point deficit.

“We were just trying to keep fighting,” Osborne said.

But on the ensuing drive, a pair of personal fouls on USC guard Taylor Bigby and sophomore guard Kiki Rice canceled out, sending Rice to the bench. Without their play-caller, the Bruins didn’t recover since the Trojans claimed 23 points off turnovers, good for the point differential and then some. 

And just like that, only one undefeated team remained.

But Close said despite the loss, this game was just a piece of the puzzle in the road to what they hope to achieve.

“To win the rivalry game is not when we sat together and said at the end of the year what we wanted to accomplish. That isn’t the end game,” Close said. “It’s part of the process.”

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Grace Whitaker | Sports senior staff
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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