Southern California guard JuJu Watkins and UCLA forward Gabriela Jaquez (23) wrestle for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 women’s tournament Friday, March 8, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

The UCLA Women’s Basketball team met crosstown rival No. 5 USC for the third time this season on Friday night in Las Vegas. The Bruins did not come out victorious, falling to the Trojans 80-70 in double overtime, but they put up a great fight until the end. With the loss, UCLA now has a 25-6 overall record, marking their second loss of the season to USC.

The game started with UCLA taking an early lead, but USC fought back, with several players contributing points to lead 12-8. USC continued their momentum, going on a 16-0 scoring streak, including impressive plays from freshman guard JuJu Watkins and grad student guard McKenzie Forbes, to finish the first quarter ahead 24-8. However, UCLA rallied in the second quarter to tie the game at 26-26. USC regained control before halftime, finishing with a 37-31 lead.

The second half saw both teams battling fiercely. UCLA closed the gap to one point early in the third quarter, but USC managed to maintain a slim lead going into the fourth quarter. The final quarter was intense, with multiple lead changes.  USC pulled ahead by five points with four minutes remaining, but UCLA fought back again, tying the game at 59-59 with less than two minutes left. Neither team could score in the final seconds, sending the game into overtime.

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In the first overtime period, UCLA took a four-point lead, but USC managed to tie the game once again. In the second overtime, USC stepped up making crucial shots and defensive plays to secure a 10-point victory.

UCLA guard Charisma Osborne (20) take a free throw shot against Southern California during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament Friday, March 8, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Watkins had an outstanding performance, setting a tournament record for a freshman scoring 33 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. McKenzie Forbes also contributed with 16 points, while Kaitlyn Davis had a season-high 16 rebounds.

UCLA had strong performances from grad student guard Charisma Osborne (21 points) , sophomore center Lauren Betts (17 points and 18 rebounds), sophomore Kiki Rice (11 points), and senior forward Angela Dugalic (10 points).

USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb described how physical and competitive the battle was against the Bruins.

“The stat sheet does not define, and properly show, how their guts are still lying on that court”, coach Gottlieb said to ESPN.

Bruins Head Coach Cori Close will use the loss as a learning lesson to prepare her team for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

“It’s always on me. It’s my job to respond and figure out how we need to use this to fuel us and get ready for the NCAA tournament. If adversity is handled correctly it can buy you a ticket to a place you wouldn’t have gone otherwise,” Close said.

USC has advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game for the first time since winning it in 2014. They will play against Stanford, the number one seed, on Sunday (March 10).