The UCLA Bruins women’s basketball team relied on second-chance points and a strong defense to snap the Women of Troy’s undefeated record with a 59-56 victory. The Bruins outrebounded USC on the offensive end 20-9. That led them to score 23 second-chance points, 11 more than USC.
“I felt like we earned some confidence that defense and rebounding against a really good team, a really good rebounding team that that could be our anchor,” said UCLA women’s basketball head coach Cori Close.
The Bruins also committed seven steals and earned 15 points from the Women of Troy’s turnovers. UCLA sophomore forward Emily Bessoir led with 16 points and senior Charisma Osbourne led all players with 13 rebounds.
USC forward Kadi Sissoko led all scorers with 20 points and sophomore forward Rayah Marshall made 10 rebounds. Despite the loss, the Women of Troy held UCLA to 59 points, their lowest final score of the season. USC women’s basketball head coach Lindsay Gottlieb noted how the contest was “a good experience” for the team.
“We have shot makers, we obviously have arguably the best frontcourt anywhere around,” Gottlieb said. “When we can get that in rhythm and sharpen up, I think that’ll make us even better.”
The Women of Troy started the game with a 5-0 run. UCLA found their scoring rhythm mid-way through the first quarter although they struggled to score a three-point shot.
The Bruins did not score a three-pointer until the second phase by guard Destiny Littleton. The three-pointer capped a 9-2 run by the Bruins. By the half, the Bruins were up 39-28.
USC allowed 24 points in the first half, but their defense only allowed 12 points in the paint in the second half. Marshall edged up her defensive ability in the second half to aid her teammates.
“For me, it was like a pride thing, my coaches told me to activate beast mode,” Marshall said. “I wanted to be a help to my team, so if it was defensively, I just accepted the challenge.”
UCLA also upgraded their defensive attack by Close assigning Osborne and senior guard Camryn Brown to guard Sissoko, allowing her to only score seven points in the second half.
“I thought Cameron was doing the best job in terms of taking away her right hand,” Close said. “She didn’t score one time when [Osborne] was guarding her too.”
When their offense slowed down the Bruins stayed the course. They stayed focused despite the noise from USC fans. The games UCLA played leading up to this match up—which included the South Carolina Gamecocks—prepared them.
“I think playing tough teams early on was very helpful in preparing us for a big rivalry game like this,” said freshman guard Kiki Rice. “We went down to South Carolina and played in a hostile environment like that so we’re used to that coming in here.”
UCLA went scoreless for almost seven minutes in the fourth quarter and USC closed their deficit to one point. Sophomore forward Emily Bessoir hit a driving layup to extend the Bruin lead and reignite their offense.
“I think we did a great job of just staying together and not just putting our heads down and just trying to do it by yourself,” Osborne said. “Credit to everyone staying together and being able to pull off one.”
Despite the loss, Sissoko sees the potential of the Women of Action.
“I’m actually proud of my team,” Sissoko said. “I see growth and I’m very optimistic for what’s coming for us because we’re working really hard at practice.”
USC will battle UCLA again on January 8 at Pauley Pavilion, a time when students will still be on break. Close noted how having the second rivalry game three weeks after does not help them develop of women’s college basketball.
“I do not think that’s in the best interest of growing our game and building enthusiasm,” Close said. “It’s happening before school comes back on both times and I do think there’s a way to make that avoidable.”