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UCLA women’s basketball readies for tip-off versus USC in top-10 rivalry showdown

Sophomore guard Londynn Jones fights to shoot the ball against her defender. Jones just joined UCLA’s 500-point club. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

Women's Basketball

Sunday, 2 p.m.

Galen Center
Pac-12 Los Angeles

By Sabrina Messiha

Jan. 14, 2024 12:22 p.m.

The Bruins handed the Trojans their first loss of the season just two weeks ago.

The crosstown rivals played in front of 13,659 fans – the largest crowd in UCLA program history – at Pauley Pavilion.

For the second time this season, No. 2 UCLA women’s basketball (14-0, 3-0 Pac-12) and No. 9 USC (12-1, 2-1) will face off in front of a sold-out Los Angeles crowd. The rivals will play this Sunday at Galen Center, marking the first time two top-10 teams will meet on the Trojans’ home court.

Coach Cori Close said her team has made adjustments since the last go-around, working on higher percentage shots and balancing that with strong defense.

“Defensively, we have some slight adjustments we can make and some things that we learned from that first matchup,” Close said. “We really played poorly offensively, and I think it’s really analyzing how we can tighten those things up.”

Sophomore center Lauren Betts struggled under the basket against USC, shooting a season-low 5-of-11 from the field. And despite being sent to the line multiple times, she missed four of her nine shots, another season low.

Betts sat on the sidelines with a mask during Friday’s practice recovering from a cold, according to Close and UCLA Athletics, but she plans to play on Sunday.

USC guard JuJu Watkins also frequented the free-throw line in her last matchup against the Bruins on her way to 27 points and 11 rebounds. In USC’s recent matchups against Oregon State and Oregon, Watkins was sent to the line six times.

“We know what she’s capable of, we know what she did the first game,” said sophomore guard Londynn Jones.

Jones, who had a season-high eight field goals and 21 points, was UCLA’s top-scorer two weeks ago. She is also the Bruins’ most recent addition to the 500-point club, after scoring a pair of 3-pointers in the first half against Oregon State last Sunday.

Like many Southern Californian players, Jones and Watkins have a history, having competed against each other as members of their local high school teams.

Both the Bruins and the Trojans boast a plethora of Southern California-grown players, only adding to the staunch rivalry between the schools. UCLA graduate student guard Charisma Osborne and sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez are some of the other local high school alumni.

“There’s definitely a buzz in LA around both teams,” Close said. “Get on board LA, don’t miss out.”

The Bruins remain one of two undefeated teams this season, along with South Carolina. But the Bruins are not paying attention to their record – they’re taking the season one step at a time.

“We’re focused on taking each game-by-game and winning …, but I don’t think we’re all super focused on the number in the record,” said sophomore guard Kiki Rice. “That’s not going to get us to a Final Four, that’s not going to win us the championship.”

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Sabrina Messiha
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