#9/10 UCLA kicked off the start of the second half of Pac-10 play this afternoon by traveling to the Galen Center to take on USC and their lovable "coach" Cooper. UCLA flat out dominated USC at Pauley, but UCLA had never won at the Galen center during the regular season, and though I'm having trouble checking this fact, may have never won @ USC during the regular season since the 90s. Despite the game taking place at the Galen Center, today we turned it into Pauley Pavilion East. In a crowd of slightly over 2000, the crowd looked about 50/50 Bruins and Trojans, but in terms of volume and creating a home court atmosphere, it was a virtual UCLA home game. I along with 90 other UCLA students and recent alumni from the band and spirit squad formed the student section with shirts provided by the womens basketball team to create that sea of blue you saw on tv. It was great getting to the game over an hour early to get our preferred seats and go through all of our traditions like roll call and frisbee cheer, and endless 8-claps. When the game started, it was nice to see not only Mariah Williams back from injury, but Thea Lemberger finally suited up to play, as she's sat out over 10 games, since before UCLA's trip to Hawaii back in December.
|From 20110206WBB @ Galen|
UCLA would not go on any game clinching runs in this game as the game was close throughout, never getting to a double digit lead. USC struck first blood with their tall line up having early success inside, getting a layup for Christina Marinacci. UCLA struck back taking a 6-3 lead. Ashley Corral tied the game up with a 3 just for Doreena Campbell to hit one on the other end. With 10 minutes left in the game, USC had gone on a small run to take their biggest lead of the game at 14-11. A 3 by Darxia tied the game back up as part of an 8-0 run to give the Bruins the lead for the remainder of the game at 19-14. On several occasions USC cut UCLA's lead to 1 point as the teams would trade baskets. UCLA managed to get their lead as high as 8 in the first half at 37-29 with a minute left, but USC scored the last 4 points of the half to cut the lead to 37-33 at halftime. Near the end of the first half Jasmine Dixon went down with what appeared to be a shoulder injury (i thought maybe it was dislocated) and she was taken out of the game, but returned for the last minute of the half and scored after coming in, so it was so impressive to see her play through the pain.
For the half, UCLA was hurting themselves with turnovers to keep the game close, but was shooting a strong 48% to 39% for the Trojans.
|From 20110206WBB @ Galen|
Quick halftime side story: During the game USC made the unfortunate decision to keep their cheer and yell crew in the vicinity of our fans, and were shooting us many dirty looks as we would try and hijack their cheers (eg: turning go trojans into go Bruins). One of our fans as a joke wanted to take a picture with one of the girls on their spirit squad, and went down and asked to take a picture (yes, of course we don't like her and had been harassing them, but it wasn't something rude to request). The spirit squad member refused and told my friend that she couldn't stand with her because she wasn't pretty enough. Pretty unbelievably rude for an official representative of their school to say, but considering some things Cooper has said, maybe not that surprising.
|From 20110206WBB @ Galen|
In the second half, UCLA was able to keep USC at an arms length away but could never put the trojans away. While the Bruins continued to have some problems turning over the ball, and USC was by far more successful in breaking UCLA's trapping defense than at Pauley leading to a better offensive performance from the Trojans, UCLA was able to hit clutch shot after clutch shot, especially by Dixon and Morris, to never let the Trojans tie the game no matter how many times the lead was reduced to 2 points. With a 9 point lead at 57-48 with 9 minutes remaining, UCLA looked like they might finally have worn down the Trojans, but they kept fighting back. USC's strong 3 point shooting kept them around as a 3 from Ashley Corral cut the lead to 62-60 going into the last media timeout. Baskets by Darxia Morris and Atonye Nyingifa pushed the Bruin lead to 6 with 1:37 remaining. Cassie Harberts cut the Bruin lead to 4. Campbell hit 2 freethrows with a minute left to get the lead back up to 6, and after missing a shot and turning the ball over, USC fouled Darxis Morris who made 1 of 2 to stretch the lead to 7. A steal by Dixon led to a fastbreak for Darxia Morris, and with a 9 point lead with 35 seconds left, the game was iced and the loud U C L A chants flooded the arena. The final score of the game was 74-65. Usually after a game the team runs straight back into the lockerroom, but today they stayed a moment on the court to thank all of their fans who showed up and lead all of us in an 8 clap which was very much appreciated. Photos of the game provided by the sneaky but not sneaky enough B D. Take a look at the slideshow for pictures of our crowd supporting the team
Though UCLA committed only 3 more turnovers than USC (17 vs 14) it seemed as if turnovers really kept UCLA from running away with the game, while USC did a much better job taking care of the ball than they did at Pauley, using their size and length to figure out the Bruin press. Still, the Bruins out-hustled the taller Trojans for a 37-25 advantage on the boards, leading to a 17-6 advantage in second chance points. With the 2 teams being virtually even at the line (feels like the refs let the Trojans hack away at our guards, though it is easier to ignore it after a victory) and USC having a strong 7-16 performance from behind the 3-point arc, it was the rebounding and second chance points that really won the day for the Bruins. UCLA ended up shooting 50% on the day to 41% for the Trojans. Nikki played her bench in the first half, but with the game intense throughout, she relied on her starters for almost the entire second half, as it showed as UCLA scored 0 bench points, with the starters leading the way today.
4 Bruins scored in double digits on the day. I'm actually really surprised to see that as it really felt like two Bruins were shouldering the load today for the Bruins hitting big shot after big shot to keep the team ahead. Darxia Morris once again had a career high with 24 points on a 10-15 effort shooting, to go with 6 boards and 4 assists. Jasmine Dixon set a season high with 23 points and a team high 14 rebounds for the double double. Atonye Nyingifa had a very stealthy 13 points with a great 5-6 shooting performance, and Doreena Campbell rounded out the scoring with 11 points and a shocking 8 rebounds. Markel Walker, the remaining starter, didn't have a great game looking at the box score with only 3 points and 3 rebounds, and despite some careless passes, had some nice hustle plays and a huge block on the defensive end.
With the victory, UCLA improves to 19-2, 9-1 on the season while the Trojans drop to 13-8, 5-5. At this point, UCLA would need to absolutely implode down the stretch not to finish in 2nd place in the pac-10 as they have a 3 game lead on the next closest team. 2nd place in conference holds even greater weight this year as the top 2 teams automatically will advance to the semi-finals of the pac-10 tournament, meaning UCLA will have one less game to play giving the team a greater chance to rest up and stay fresh. With the victory today, UCLA sweeps the Trojans on the season and have won 4 in a row in the series. UCLA travels up to the Oregon schools this week, before returning to Pauley the following week to host the Bay Area schools with a weekend showdown against conference leader Stanford.