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UCLA women’s basketball falls to USC in double-overtime thriller

Sophomore forward Gabriela Jaquez, sophomore center Lauren Betts and sophomore forward Lina Sontag walk toward the sidelines.
(Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

Women’s Basketball


No. 3 seed UCLA70
No. 2 seed USC80

By Grace Whitaker

March 8, 2024 11:07 p.m.

This post was updated March 10 at 10:25 p.m.

LAS VEGAS – It happened twice.

A deadlocked game, one possession remaining with the ball in UCLA’s hand and a pair of seconds on the clock. The Bruins had a chance. 

But both times the clock expired, the net remained empty. The game persisted. 

The Bruins were granted two opportunities to win the game, but they wouldn’t be given a third. 

In a double-overtime thriller, crosstown rivals No. 3 seed UCLA women’s basketball (25-6, 13-5) and No. 2 seed USC (26-5, 13-5) battled wire-to-wire until the Trojans ultimately came out on top in an 80-70 victory. The contest was only the second time in Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament history that a double-overtime contest occurred in the semifinals.

“It sucks. It really sucks,” said graduate student guard Charisma Osborne. “But I know that our main goal is the NCAA Tournament, and we still have that to fight for.”

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Bruins trailed by three. Throughout the first three quarters, UCLA managed to recover from a 16-point deficit, but that fight would be just the beginning.

Off the jump, UCLA collected a fleeting lead – its first since early in the second quarter – and back-and-forth baskets predestined a tied ball game with less than a minute to go. 

And that’s when it happened for the first time. 

Coach Cori Close yells as she walks toward the UCLA bench.
(Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

Missed shots on both ends resulted in a deadlocked game with 18.1 seconds to go when the ball landed in USC’s hands. Unable to get a shot off, UCLA was handed a gift – 2.1 seconds to win it, or a promised overtime on a miss. 

Needless to say, overtime was the name of the game.

“If I had to do it all over again, we might have done something different on the first one,” coach Cori Close said.

The slate was wiped clean. All that had occurred in the first 40 minutes was null and void, and it was time for the recipient of the championship bid to be determined. But this time, the rivals had five minutes to plead their case. 

Throughout the game, fouls were a significant character in the story, with sophomore center Lauren Betts taking the brunt of the physicality while facing frequent double-teams. Betts said it’s something she’s used to, and the center has learned to persevere.

“I’ve been getting fouled my entire life,” Betts said. “I’m a 6’7” post, like obviously, I’m going to get beat up.”

When the clock reset, Betts was first to score, but the Trojans answered with a pair of makes from the charity stripe. UCLA then stuffed a 6-2 run to cushion a four-point lead with less than a minute remaining. But back-to-back Trojan scoring possessions knotted it up one more time. 

And that’s when the improbable occurred for the second time. 

UCLA magically got the ball back after a USC miss with less than two seconds left. And with their granted time, the Bruins once again didn’t manage to get a shot off in time, resulting in a second overtime. 

In what would become the final quarter of Pac-12 play for UCLA, one team was destined to pull ahead. This time, it just so happened to be USC. 

Speaking broadly about her coaching technique, Close said she’s quick to acknowledge an error in play-calling, without specifically pointing to any certain moments. 

“If I made a bad call in the game, I’ll tell you, I’ll tell my team. I’ll do that,” Close said.

The Trojans ran away with a 7-3 run to begin it. And after four Bruin starters were plagued with four fouls throughout the duration of the now-six quarters, there were 28 seconds remaining when sophomore Kiki Rice drew a whistle and fouled out. 

The guard walked off of the court, with UCLA’s last hopes towards a championship berth drifting behind her. 

But this game is not the end. With the NCAA Tournament looming, Close said there’s much to focus on, but she hopes this loss stings just enough.

“I always say, ‘Will the pain of this be greater than the pain of what it takes to change,’” Close said. 

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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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