USC Falls to No. 17 UCLA, 63-58
WESTWOOD, CALIF. -- The USC women's basketball team wrapped up a rough and busy February with its second loss to rival UCLA in less than a week. The Trojans put pressure on their No. 17-ranked hosts, but couldn't make up for a turnover-plagued first half and wound up with a 63-58 loss to the Bruins today at Pauley Pavilion. USC goes to 8-19 overall and 5-11 overall with its eighth straight loss. No. 17 UCLA improves to 21-6, 12-4.
Both teams were hitting a a 30-percent clip from the floor in the first half, although USC was plagued by 17 first-half turnovers to hamper the Trojans' offensive efforts. USC was up on the boards 25-20 but behind on the scoreboard 27-22 at the half. USC would trail by as much as 15 points during the second half, but cut the lead down to one with three minutes to go. The Bruins would keep the Women of Troy at bay down the stretch, though, thanks in part to five 3-pointers nailed in the game. USC finished the game shooting 35 percent from the floor, with the Bruins hitting at 37 percent. The teams finished up even at 42 rebounds apiece, and USC had 22 turnovers to 18 by UCLA.
Cassie Harberts secured her 14th career double-double today with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. Ariya Crook added 16 points for the Trojans, and Brianna Barrett served up eight assists. UCLA had three players in double figures: Thea Lemberger and Nirra Fields with 12 each and 11 from Markel Walker.
USC crept ahead 8-4 on a bucket from Cassie Harberts with 15:35 on the clock, but USC would fall into a scoring slump and go scoreless for the next seven minutes until Alexyz Vaioletama hit a jumper to make it 12-10 Bruins with 8:40 to go. Ariya Crook would finish off a take to the hoop next, and USC had evened things up 12-12 at 7:55. UCLA struck out on a 9-0 run to put the Trojans behind 21-12 before Desiree Bradley drained a three to get USC an offensive spark and make it 21-15 UCLA with 4:40 to go in the half. She'd hit two free throws next to bring USC within four. The margin would sit as five going into the locker room, with UCLA up 27-22 on the visiting Trojans.
The Bruins scored the first seven points of the second half to put USC in a 12-point hole before the Trojans found a scoring touch. Cassie Harberts would become the first player in double figures as she provided six straight points for USC to cut the Bruin advantage down to 36-30 with 14:45 on the clock. Harberts was the only Trojan to score during a seven-minute stretch while UCLA outpaced USC and took a 47-32 lead. Ariya Crook would follow up two Harberts free throws with back-to-back 3-pointers to generate a much-needed spark for the Trojans, cutting what had been a 15-point deficit down to seven. Christina Marinacci took scissors to that lead, too, converting a three-point play that made it an 11-0 USC run to bring it to 47-43 Bruins with 8 minutes left to play. A couple minutes later, freshman Destinie Gibbs got in on the scoring for USC with a bucket down low, and Harberts hit the front end of her visit to the stripe to get the Trojans within three, down 49-46 with 4:29 remaining. UCLA would slip one in next, but Harberts kept the Trojan train rolling with back-to-back strikes and the deficit was down to one with 3 minutes remaining.
UCLA would manage its fifth 3-pointer of the game to get a little space before Crook finished off a steal to make it 54-52 entering the 2-minute mark. Following a Bruin bucket at the other end, Bradley would be just off the mark with her 3-point try in the final minute, and USC was forced to foul in an effort to cut back in and couldn't get the breaks to get closer than the 63-58 final.
USC now heads to Arizona to wrap up the Pac-12 regular season. The Trojans will first face Arizona in a 7 p.m. game on Friday (March 1) before heading to Arizona State for a 12 p.m. game on Sunday (March 3).