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UCLA-USC Smackdown

January 14, 2002|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's isn't only the men's teams that take the USC-UCLA basketball rivalry seriously.

The Trojan women's team defeated the Bruins, 67-57, on Sunday, and the final score doesn't begin to tell what happened before 5,331 at Pauley Pavilion. The game had all the bone-jarring basketball and cross-town rancor a fan could ask for.

Bodies hit the hardwood again and again. Coaches on both sides howled over any perceived missed call.

With 5:32 to play in the second half and the Trojans ahead, 58-43, USC's Ebony Hoffman and UCLA's Shalada Allen got into a scuffle after both went after a loose ball under the Bruin basket. Both received flagrant double technical fouls and were ejected. It was a play that had UCLA Coach Kathy Olivier and USC Coach Chris Gobrecht yelling at the referees and at each other.

Gobrecht received her own technical with 4:56 to play when she charged the officials after they initially charged Aisha Hollans with a foul (it was corrected and assessed to Jessica Cheeks). With 1:12 left, Gobrecht got a second technical and was sent to the locker room. But not before responding to some heckling UCLA fans by pointing at the scoreboard.

In the end USC, which led by 20 points at halftime and didn't let the Bruins get closer than nine points in the second half, improved to 9-7 and 5-2 in the Pacific 10. UCLA dropped to 5-10, 2-5.

Afterward Gobrecht, who beat UCLA at Pauley for the first time in five tries as USC coach and earned her 200th Pac-10 victory, was still upset over what she felt was borderline dirty play by the Bruins in the second half.

"We were the team that was winning and winning big. Why in the world would we be starting anything?" Gobrecht said.

"You could have called a foul on them every time they came down the floor--every single time. And [the officials] did nothing to clean that up. Those [UCLA] kids were out of control; they held, grabbed, pushed, shoved or smacked us every single time.

"And we weren't doing anything. We weren't even playing our normal defense. We, at that point, were just trying to get out of there alive."

Olivier, unsurprisingly, had a different view.

"Obviously, any time you play your cross-town rival it's going to be ugly, so to speak," Olivier said. "And it either brings out the worst in people or the best in people. I'm proud of our team and I'm proud of how they handled themselves. We never stopped fighting--no, we never stopped working hard."

Asked about the Hoffman-Allen scuffle, Olivier said: "I couldn't hear everything because I had someone else in my ear. But from what I heard, they got tangled up and I guess they each threw a little punch in there. From my angle I couldn't really see it; I just know how [Allen] is. I don't think she would do that. I felt the refs were trying to get control back into the game. It kind of went drastic, so to speak."

Hoffman--who ended up at the bottom of a pile of players that resulted from the altercation--said she merely pushed Allen off of her, adding, "I was getting some cheap shots."

Allen said she did not punch Hoffman and that the incident "was blown out of proportion."

Each player must wait to learn if she can play in her team's next game Thursday. According to NCAA rules, if the officials report the incident as a fight, there is an automatic suspension for the next scheduled game. Also, a conference office or other assigning authority cannot change an official's ruling that a fight took place, or lessen the severity of the penalty.

Gobrecht said she would fight any suspension of Hoffman.

"She pushed the kid off her, because the kid was punching her, for goodness sakes," Gobrecht said. "For her to be kicked out like that, that was wrong. And that's just typical Bruin cheap stuff."

Some basketball was mixed in with the conflicts. The smaller Bruins tried to pressure the Trojans over every inch of the court. It worked early, as UCLA goaded USC into several turnovers, and the Bruins were within 16-15 after two Whitney Jones free throws with 9:28 left in the first half.

But then USC's offense suddenly got locked in, and UCLA's offense got locked out.

The Trojans outscored the Bruins, 27-8, over the rest of the half. Hoffman and Carmen Krause (who scored a team-high 14 points) worked inside for layups, and Lauren Smith-Hams, Erin Young and Krause made three-pointers.

UCLA made only two baskets in that span, both by Allen, and totaled eight field goals (in 33 attempts) in the half.

Bruin guard Natalie Nakase led all scorers with 21 points.

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