USC comes out on top against crosstown rival UCLA, 66-54, McGee sisters honored

LOS ANGELES – The USC Trojans beat the UCLA Bruins 66-54 Sunday, sweeping their crosstown rivals this season and breaking a fourth-place tie in the Pac-12 standings with them to take the spot.

The game was a sloppy affair on both sides, with USC shooting 34.5 percent and UCLA, 27.4 – an improvement for both squads from the first half. The Trojans had 24 turnovers while the Bruins committed 21. But the host team outrebounded their opponents, 48-37.

Cassie Harberts lead USC with 26 points, while Briana Gilbreath added 10, as well as 12 rebounds. Rebekah Gardner put up 18 for UCLA, despite missing 10 game minutes getting her lip stitched after taking an elbow to the mouth in the first half. Teammate Markel Walker scored 16 points and grabbed 13 boards.

Trojan Coach Michael Cooper was clear about what won the game for his team.

“The key was rebounding,” he said. “That was the difference in the game.”

USC got out to a 9-2 lead by the 16-minute mark in the first half, but UCLA kept it close for most of the period, as both teams continued to miss shots. The Trojans went on a run in the closing minutes, instigated by Harberts and Gilbreath. They lead 35-21 at the break.

Gardner, who leads the Bruins in scoring this year, left the game late in the first half, and was out to begin the second period. This helped USC go on a 15-4 run to extend their lead to 54-32 with just under 10 minutes to go. Upon her return, Gardner scored seven points, which helped the Bruins cut the lead to 56-42 with 6:02 left. They got as close as 10 points at the 3:23 mark, but the Trojan defense helped stave them off, as they forced UCLA into 14 second-half turnovers.

Both teams were ranked to begin the season, and each squad has seen its share of devastating injuries, which has meant for a fight in their own conference. They were both 7-6 in Pac-12 play going into Sunday’s game.

“We needed this game to keep our season going,” USC senior guard Ashley Corral said. “We had some losses that we shouldn’t have had, and now we’re fighting for the same spot.”

Part of the battle for position also includes rights to a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament – something Cooper said the Trojans said they would relish.

UCLA Coach Cori Close did not pull any punches in saying that her team lacked heart and energy going into the game.

“I’m very disappointed in our team’s willingness to have Rebekah’s back,” she said of Gardner. “You (are supposed to) show up with a sense of urgency, and we need to take responsibility for that.”

“(USC) treated this rivalry with the attention it deserves.”

Close said she sent a message to Bruin players by starting walk-on Madeline Brooks for the first time. Close said she earned it.

“I was hoping it would turn us around,” Close said of starting the freshman. “Brooks has done everything I’ve asked her to do…she’s sacrificial.”

Both teams have their final regular-season home games this week, as the Arizona schools come to town.

Other Pac-12 action this weekend:

Saturday, February 18

  • Arizona State 47, Washington State 42
  • California 75, Oregon State 68
  • No. 3 Stanford 81, Oregon 46
  • Utah 61, Colorado 56 (OT)

Saturday, February 19

  • Washington 68, Arizona 59
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