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USC Blows Lead, Rallies to Beat Stanford, 81-73 : Women's basketball: Leslie scores 34 points as Trojans take two-game lead in the Pac-10.

January 31, 1994|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cheryl Miller's USC women's basketball team grabbed the Pacific 10 basketball race by the throat Sunday afternoon, beating Stanford, 81-73, to take a two-game lead over the rest of the pack.

The Trojans, who won their ninth in a row to go 15-1 overall (8-0 in the Pac-10), had a 17-2 lead in the early going before 1,077 at Lyon Center. But they had to rally in the second half to win.

Stanford came back from a 38-36 halftime deficit and had a 57-51 lead with 11:25 to play before the Trojans, behind Lisa Leslie, caught up, 57-57, and outscored Stanford, 24-16, the rest of the way.

It was the first time Stanford, winner of the last five conference championships, had lost two consecutive games since the 1987-88 season. The Cardinal also lost Friday night at UCLA.

Leslie, the 6-foot-5 senior from Inglewood, had a 34-point, 11-rebound, three-block game. Her third field goal, a jump shot from the free-throw line, made her the Pac-10's all-time scoring record. She passed Stanford's Val Whiting, who had 2,077 points.

However, Pac-10 women's basketball didn't begin until the 1986-87 season, so Leslie is still the No. 5 USC scorer, behind Miller (3,018), Cherie Nelson, Pam McGee and Paula McGee.

Leslie made 14 of 20 free throws and was clearly the difference.

"That's the Lisa Leslie everyone's been waiting to see," said Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer. "She had a great touch on her shot today. She rebounded well and was very athletic.

"USC is a totally underrated team (the Trojans were eighth in last week's Associated Press poll). They've been in tough situations and won. They could have lost their games at Oregon and Oregon State, but they won.

"Lisa, right now, is the best player in the country, and (Nicky) McCrimmon may be the best point guard in the country. The sky's the limit for this team."

Miller, who faulted her team only for blowing the early 17-2 lead, agreed.

"All things considered, this was our best game," she said. "We see a growing level of maturity with these players. . . . They're going up to the next level."

Stanford rallied with long-range shooting. Jamila Wideman put the Cardinal ahead for the first time, 46-44.

USC's tightened pressure defense interrupted Stanford's rhythm, creating turnovers. The Trojans put together an 8-0 lead to take the lead for good.

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