By Mykell Mathieu
Sports Reporter 

UCLA slows down Watkins and hands USC it's first loss of the year

 

January 4, 2024

George Laase

UCLA's Kiki Rice scored 12 points in UCLA's win over cross-town rival USC.

No.2 UCLA beat USC and their freshman superstar Juju Watkins and crosstown rival No. 6 USC, 71-64, in front of a sold out Pauley Pavilion crowd handing the Trojans their first loss of the season. "I will boldly say that this was the hottest ticket in any sport male or female today in Southern California," UCLA coach Cori Close said. "That's saying something."

The Bruins coming off of one of the toughest non-conference schedules in all of women's college basketball and it looks like it paid off. Guard Londynn Jones led the way for UCLA as she finished the game 21 points, including five 3-pointers. My team does a good job of finding me and the person who is hot in general. We do a good job of continuing to go with it," said Jones, who had her fourth 20-point game of the season. Center Lauren Betts had 15 points and eight rebounds while Kiki Rice added 12 points for the Bruins (12-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who beat the Trojans for the ninth straight time.

UCLA led by as much as 12 points in the game. The Bruins even held a 10-point lead late in the third quarter before the Trojans made a run to keep the game from getting out of hand.

The physical play on defense for the Bruins led to Watkins having her toughest game of the season. Watkins finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds but shot just seven for 24 from the field in both teams Pac-12 opener. "We haven't faced a team like this so far," Watkins said. "So it was just getting used to the physicality and I had to slow it down and try to pick it apart."

The Bruins, with the play of Betts and the rest of their taller players were able to out-rebound the Trojans 48-37 with 16 of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. Those extra possession helped give UCLA a much-needed advantage in such a competitive game.

"Today was like a Sweet 16 match up. I think our non-conference schedule gave us a lot of experience," Betts said. "I think we came in today knowing that whatever happens, we were going to be the tougher and more together team. "This victory gives UCLA a pair of victories over top 10 programs for the second time in four years.

The game was attended by 13,659 fans, breaking the UCLA women's basketball single-game mark. Among those in attendance were former UCLA standouts, Clippers star Russell Westbrook, former NBA star Baron Davis and Las Vegas Aces GM Natalie Williams.

The Bruins have two homes games against both Oregon schools before the rematch with USC next week on January 14th at the Galen Center at 2 p.m.

 

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