USC Women Enter 2014 On A Happy Note, Beating UCLA 56-54 In Westwood
Dec. 30, 2013
WESTWOOD, CALIF. -- The USC women's basketball team won a wild one in Westwood tonight, beating rival UCLA with a 56-54 victory to wrap up 2013 and kick off Pac-12 play on a winning note for the Women of Troy. Ariya Crook set the tone for the Trojans with a career-high 25 points -- 21 of which came in the first half to open things up for USC. The game was tied with 1:44 to go, and UCLA was gifted a trip to the line with 0.4 seconds left for a shot at forcing overtime, but the Trojans came away with the deserved victory over the Bruins. USC improves to 8-5 overall with its third consecutive win and opens conference action with a 1-0 record. UCLA goes to 6-7, 0-1.
It took the Trojans some time to settle in at Pauley Pavilion, but USC eventually warmed up and turned a 1-for-9 (.111) start from the floor in the first nine minutes into a 9-of-13 effort in the next 10 minutes of action as the Trojans worked their way ahead of the Bruins thanks in large part to four 3-pointers buried by Ariya Crook in the half. Now shooting 44 percent from the floor, USC held a 32-27 halftime lead on its rival. UCLA was at 37 percent through the first 20 minutes of action. USC would cool off in the second, however, winding up the game hitting 36 percent to the floor to just edge UCLA's 34 percent effort. The Trojans also won out on the boards 40-34, while matching UCLA at 13-of-19 from the free-throw line in the game.
The Women of Troy were leading the Bruins by seven points with 3:45 left in the game before UCLA was able to creep back in, locking it up at 53-53 with 1:44 on the clock. Alexyz Vaioletama came up big in the lane to bump USC back ahead, while UCLA was unable to answer. A Trojan miss at the other end put things up for grabs, but Cassie Harberts hauled in a key offensive board to give USC new life with 17.3 seconds remaining. Brianna Barrett was put on the line, hitting the back end to make it a three-point USC advantage, prompting UCLA to take aim at a tying 3-pointer. Two tries missed, and the third -- a prayer from Nirra Fields with under a second left -- was deemed to have been a foul. The referees conferred, put 0.4 seconds on the clock and Fields on the line for three tosses with USC holding a 56-53 lead. A miss, make and intentional shot off the glass made it 56-54 Trojans and put the ball in USC's hands to work off the last 0.4 ticks and lock in a win for the Women of Troy.
Crook would lead all with her career-high 25 points, while Harberts added 12 for the Trojan cause. With those 12 points, Harberts moved up to rank No. 13 all-time in career scoring at USC, now with 1,479 career points. UCLA was led by 20 points from Atonye Nyingifa and 13 from Fields tonight.
Buckets were coming in the first 1:15 of action, but after that only free throws fell for both teams for a stretch of six full minutes. UCLA's Atonye Nyngifa snapped the silence with a jumper at 11:45, and the Bruins were holding an 11-5 lead on the Trojans, who had Ariya Crook as their only point provider to that point. Cassie Harberts joined the action with the back end of a visit to the stripe to snap eight minutes of a scoring drought for the Trojans, and Alezyx Vaioletama slipped in a outback later to make the score 15-8 UCLA at the 10 minute mark. Courtney Jaco took it to the hole next, and Crook fed Harberts for a score in transition that had the Trojans back within striking distance, down 15-12 with 8:50 on the clock. Six straight points from Crook had the game locked up 22-22 with 3:54 to go, and Crook would answer UCLA's next bucket with a 3-pointer that gave USC its first lead of the game, up 25-24 with 3:20 left in the half. Her fourth bomb punched USC up to 28-26, and Harberts knocked down two more free throws next to get USC up by four with 1:21 on the clock, and one last Harberts score before the buzzer had the Trojans on top 32-27 at the break.
The Trojans got their lead to balloon up to eight points on a score from Kaneisha Horn on a Brianna Barrett feed, but the Bruins would bite back with a run of eight straight points to even it up at 38-38 with 12:26 on the clock. Harberts worked into double figures for the ninth straight game as she provided five straight points for the USC cause to snag back the lead, taking the Trojans to a 43-38 advantage as the 10-minute mark approached. Things would tighten up to a three-point margin entering the final four minutes of regulation, prompting Desiree Bradley to knock down a clutch three for the Trojans to make it 51-45 USC with 3:45 on the clock. UCLA's Nirra Fields would answer that with a long two and then a three for the Bruins to tug it to a one-point game with 2:40 remaining. Sent to the line as UCLA's Thea Lemberger fouled out of the game, Crook tied her career high in getting to 25 points and pushing USC up 53-50. It would lock back up, at 53-53, with 1:44 to go before Vaioletama made good in the paint at 1:15 for the Trojans. USC would have the ball underneath with 44 ticks to go. Brianna Barrett took it to the hole but saw it rim out. Harberts was there for the board to reset things for USC, and Barrett would be sent to the line with 17 seconds left and USC up 55-53. Barrett's first was just off the mark but the second rang true to hand USC a 56-53 edge. UCLA called timeout with 10.5 seconds remaining. Fields' 3-point try to tie was off, and a second attempt from Madeline Brooks was blocked out of bounds, and UCLA got the ball on the sideline with 0.8 on the clock. Fields three up a prayer that was nowhere near the mark, but Barrett was tagged with a foul on the shot. Mysteriously, the referees chose to put 0.4 back on the clock as Fields went to the line for three tosses. She'd miss the first, hit the second, and fire the last at the backboard. It missed the rim, putting the ball in USC hands at the baseline to close out the last 0.4 breaths of the game.
USC now heads back to Galen Center to start out 2014 with some Pac-12 play against Colorado and Utah. The Trojans host the Buffs at 8 p.m. on Friday (Jan. 3) and then face the Utes at 4 p.m. on Sunday (Jan. 5) in two Pac-12 Networks broadcasted games.