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UCLA women’s basketball takes down Trojans in 1st round of Pac-12 tournament

Redshirt freshman forward Angela Dugalić celebrates with her team. Dugalić recorded season highs in points and rebounds with 13 and 12, respectively. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)

Women’s basketball

No. 10 seed USC 60
No. 7 seed UCLA73

By Gavin Carlson

March 2, 2022 8:36 p.m.

This post was updated March 2 at 11:28 p.m.

LAS VEGAS After leading by as much as 13 in the first half, the Bruins found themselves tied with the Trojans with one quarter left to play.

With an early postseason elimination on the line, the blue and gold forced its crosstown rival to miss its first 14 shots from the field in the final period and avoided an upset loss.

No. 7 seed UCLA women’s basketball (14-12, 8-8 Pac-12) outscored its opponents 27-14 in the final period to earn a 73-60 win over No. 10 seed USC (12-16, 5-12) in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday evening. The victory extends UCLA’s season for at least another day, as it will face No. 2 seed Oregon on Thursday evening in the second round.

“I’m super proud of us in the fourth quarter,” said junior guard Charisma Osborne. “In the third quarter, people are (going to) punch back. It starts on defense and getting rebounds, so I think we just did that and we just stayed together.”

Both teams traded baskets throughout much of the opening period, with UCLA’s three-point lead in the middle of the quarter representing the largest lead of the frame for either side.

Graduate student forward IImar’I Thomas scored six of the team’s 14 first-quarter points on 3-of-5 shooting, but the rest of the roster combined to shoot 2-of-12. Thomas turned a pair of offensive rebounds into putback layups, including one with 44 seconds left to give the Bruins a 14-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Graduate student forward IImar’I Thomas takes on USC forward Alissa Pili in the paint. Thomas tied for the game lead with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)

With the game tied at 16 apiece just over two minutes into the second quarter, UCLA went on a 9-0 run in the next 2 1/2 minutes of play. Thomas jump-started the run with a post move and layup before a pair of Bruins continued the stretch.

Redshirt senior guard Chantel Horvat drew an offensive foul before converting a pair of free throws on the other end. Redshirt freshman forward Angela Dugalić then scored five straight points – including her first 3-pointer of the season – to give UCLA a 25-16 lead, causing USC to call a timeout. 

Dugalić and Horvat combined for nine total rebounds in the first half, including five on the offensive end. The Bruins as a whole secured nine offensive rebounds to the Trojans’ two and converted 13 second-chance points compared to zero for USC.

Following two Trojan baskets, the Bruins went on another 8-0 run to give the team its largest lead of the game at 13.

After Osborne missed her sixth shot in seven attempts, USC drilled a midrange jumper in the final second of the half. Despite Osborne – the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer in the regular season – being held to as many made field goals as turnovers, UCLA took a 33-24 lead into halftime.

Coach Cori Close said her team’s performance on the glass and defensive end propelled the blue and gold to victory rather than its scoring.

“We had a tough offensive night – it was not a pretty win,” Close said. “But we have never been built on having to win based on how many shots we make. Especially in the postseason, you’ve got to be able to grind it out with defense and rebounding, and really that’s how we did it.”

The Trojans outscored the Bruins 10-2 in the opening two minutes of the third period to bring the score to 35-34. 

From there, both teams continued to trade baskets. Though Thomas and Osborne each scored five points, UCLA committed seven of its 14 turnovers in the third quarter alone and was outscored 20-13. A pair of USC free throws with less than four seconds left tied the game at 46 apiece with one quarter to play.

Thomas said the team’s experiences this season allowed her and her teammates to stay confident heading into the fourth quarter of a tie game.

“There’s almost just no position that we haven’t been in as a team,” Thomas said. “When they went on their run, we knew that we could execute our game plan for the rest of the game, and we had each other’s backs.”

With their season on the line, the Bruins forced five Trojan turnovers in the first four minutes of the quarter and held them to a fourth-quarter shooting percentage of 12.5%.

After being held to two points in the first three periods, graduate student guard Jaelynn Penn scored seven points in four minutes and broke a 48-48 tie to give UCLA a 57-50 lead. 

With just under four minutes to play, Dugalić converted her second 3-pointer to push the lead to 10 and force a USC timeout. 

The long-range shot gave the former Oregon Duck her new season high in points at 11, and she extended that mark to 13 with a putback score that gave the Bruins a 66-53 lead with 2:25 left in the game. She also finished with 12 rebounds to secure her first double-double donning the blue and gold and a team-best plus/minus of plus-21 before fouling out.

After missing 18 games in her first season as a Bruin, Dugalić said she has been thankful for her teammates’ support throughout the campaign.

“I’m really proud to wear these four letters across my chest,” Dugalić said. “My teammates and my coaching staff – I’m really blessed to have them in my life, and I don’t think it would’ve gone like this if I didn’t have them.”

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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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