The results really weren't in question for this one.
Coming on the heels of two losses in the Bay Area and in need of a win to keep themselves in contention for the top seeds in the Pac-12 standings, the Bruins were outplayed from the start Sunday afternoon, resulting in a 66-54 loss against the Women of Troy.
Once the third-place team in the conference, UCLA now falls to 7-7 and remains fifth in the Pac-12, a full game behind fourth-place USC (8-6). The takeaways from today's outing are below:
A Case of Deja Vu
The plan for the Bruins coming into today was to learn from their last matchup against USC (a grind-it-out one at that) and speed up the tempo of the game. But right from the opening tip, the pace was slow and slurred. After registering the first basket of the game on a layup by Rebekah Gardner at the 19:39 mark, the Bruins didn't score again until the 15:54 mark on a three-pointer from Markel Walker. What made it worse for UCLA was that the Trojans' offense looked crisper than in the previous cross-town contest. Midway through the first half, USC broke the game open with an 18-9 run, paving the way for the decisive win.
What surely must have frustrated the UCLA coaching staff was that despite the Trojan momentum, the Bruins have shown throughout the season that they were capable of a better showing, especially during a first half dotted with letdowns and lapses.
"It wasn't so much what USC did as it was what we didn't do," Gardner said after the game. "We have to be composed during pressure situations and take care of the ball. USC is a good defensive team, but it was on us to play better out there today."
The Difference from Down Low
As it turned out, the guard play took a backseat to what transpired in the post. For the most part, the Bruins and Trojans kept each other's guards in check. On the other hand, while UCLA corralled just eight points from their post players, USC's Cassie Harberts went to work in the paint and set the tone early for the home team, ending the day with a game-high 26 points and nine rebounds.
As for the rebounding, it was advantage Trojans. UCLA head coach Cori Close had made it clear prior to this game that defensive rebounding was what would enable the Bruins to play to their strength: getting out in transition and scoring quick baskets. For a second time, though, that just didn't happen. Overall, UCLA was out-rebounded 48-37, with a 33-24 margin in defensive boards.
"It's a credit to USC; they played with great focus, and their hustle for loose balls and rebounds gave them second and third opportunities, especially in that first half," Close said.
News & Notes
Gardner had to come out of the game with 18:49 remaining in the second half after being on the receiving end of an inadvertent elbow from Brianna Gilbreath. Gardner later returned to the floor, but not after getting four stitches on her lip.
Fans might have also noticed Madeline Brooks getting the surprise start today, which Close explained was purely because of the freshman walk-on's efforts during practice.
As for next week, the Bruins play their last two home games of the regular season, hosting Arizona State on Thursday and Arizona on Saturday.