Women’s basketball seeks first conference win in crosstown duel

The Trojans are coming off two narrow road losses against Arizona State and Arizona.

The crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA is set to go down at Galen Center on Sunday. The last meeting in March resulted in a 73-66 win by the Bruins, but USC leads the series with UCLA 50-49 dating back to 1971.

The Women of Troy are 1-2 and 0-2 in Pac-12 play this season, but they have shown significant improvement on both sides of the ball, utilizing sharp shooters from beyond the arc and getting their young roster comfortable on the court while a few veterans recover from previous injuries.

In the Trojans’ Pac-12 opener Dec. 4, they fell 63-58 against Arizona State.

The Trojans came out hot in the first quarter and amassed a 23-17 lead, shooting 60% from the field and going 5-for-7 behind the arc. USC cooled down through the second quarter, but finished the game shooting 43% from the field. The Trojans were able to go toe-to-toe led by sophomore guard Endyia Rodgers who scored 15 points.

While the Trojans didn’t come out with the win against ASU, they showed poise and composure down to the last second of the game by making an 8-0 comeback late in the fourth and scoring 26 points in the paint and 15 off the bench.

With a short trip from Tempe to Tucson, Ariz., the Women of Troy had a nail-biter against No. 7 Arizona where the Wildcats squeaked out a victory over USC, 78-77.

USC shot 52% from the field in the first half and shot 41% from the 3-point line compared to Arizona’s 16%. The Trojans were able to stretch out to a double-digit lead in the third quarter with shots going in the hole left and right. However, USC got into foul trouble and Arizona crawled back and created an eight-point lead with five minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Even with five USC women sidelined with injuries and some players getting into foul trouble, Rodgers, graduate forward Jordan Sanders and sophomore center Angel Jackson each finished in double figures. Rodgers and redshirt freshman guard Madison Campbell both put up crucial points with less than 30 seconds to go, but the Wildcats ultimately claimed the one-point victory.

With two close games against Arizona teams, USC head coach Mark Trakh believes his team is prepared to face UCLA on Sunday.

“We come into the crosstown duel not with discouragement, but with immense confidence,” he said. “Coming off of two great games in Arizona, and a great week of practice, our women are ready to come out strong and stay consistent through four quarters of basketball on Sunday.”

The Bruins, 3-1 overall, are coming off a close loss against No. 7 Arizona and a win against ASU. Seeing that the Bruins also had a nail-biter against the Wildcats, it could mean a close game between the Bruins and Trojans.

UCLA sophomore guard Charisma Osborne is one to watch, leading her team in scoring with 19.5 points per game. Her teammate, senior forward Michaela Onyenwere, leads the Bruins with 10 rebounds per game and is lethal with the put-back shot.

Trakh said the key to Sunday’s game is to contain both Osborne and Onyenwere.

“Our women need to do a great job of boxing out and getting back on defense quickly because that’s where the Bruins can get away from us,” Trakh said. “If we can hold Osborne to minimum shots and get good boards, our Trojans will be coming full-force against the Bruins.”

With sharp shooter Campbell who had five 3-pointers in her season debut and tough defender and ball handler Kyra White looking to lead the Trojans this weekend, it’s going to be a classic showdown between the two LA teams, and the Trojans have the tools to come out on top.

USC-UCLA tips off at 12 p.m. on Sunday.