LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins dropped their Pac-12 Conference opener to USC Monday evening in the latest installment of the schools' crosstown rivalry. In a battle that came down to the final buzzer, the Trojans were victorious, 56-54 at Pauley Pavilion in front of 3,297. UCLA fell to 6-7 (0-1 in Pac-12 play), while USC improved to 8-5 (1-0).
USC was led by junior Ariya Crook with a career high-matching 25 points. Senior Cassie Harberts added 12 and eight rebounds. UCLA was led by senior Atonye Nyingifa, who scored 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Sophomore Nirra Fields finished with 13 (10 in the second half).
After falling behind by a game-high nine points midway through the first, USC and Crook caught fire. The guard scored 16 points from that point on in the half and closed the first half with 21. The Trojans took advantage of early foul trouble for the Bruins, who were without Fields for most of the opening frame. The guard was coming off a career-best 36 points in the team's win Saturday over Cal Poly. USC took a 32-27 to the break.
Crook picked up where she left off in the second and helped the Trojans extend their lead to a game-high eight early in the half. Fields was able to overcome a tough shooting night (missed seven of first eight from field) to stifle the guard in the second half and keep the Bruins in the game.
In what was often a struggle offensively for both teams, the Bruins shot 33.9% from the field (19-56), while the Trojans converted 35.8% (19-53). UCLA finished the final 2:40 with just five players after freshman Lauren Holiday was lost to injury and junior Corinne Costa and senior Thea Lemberger fouled out. Fields' shot started falling late, including one stretch where she scored seven straight points.
A crucial offensive rebound with 17 seconds remaining put the Trojans back on the free throw line, where guard Brianna Barrett extended the USC lead to three. Fields was fouled shooting a three pointer with 0.4 seconds left and stepped to the line, where she missed the first. UCLA was unable to grab a late rebound on the third attempt.
The Trojans won the rebounding battle 41-34, while the Bruins converted just three of 17 shots from beyond the arc.
UCLA will look to bounce back Friday when it hosts Utah at 6:00 p.m. The game will air on the Pac-12 Networks.
USC at UCLA