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USC Women Stumble Late but Defeat UCLA

Trojans build 15-point lead in the second half, then hold on to win, 77-73, at Pauley Pavilion.

February 19, 2006|Mike Terry | Times Staff Writer

Once again it was close. And once again, USC found a way to beat UCLA in women's basketball.

The Trojans blew a 15-point second-half lead but defeated their cross-town rivals, 77-73, in a Pacific 10 Conference game Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.

Chloe Kerr had a career-high 19 points and Allison Jaskowiak made two free throws with 22 seconds to put USC in the lead for good, 74-73.

"I was shooting extra free throws this week [in practice] and when I stepped up there today I knew I'd make them," said Jaskowiak, who had 11 points and seven rebounds.

UCLA rallied from a 45-30 deficit to lead, 73-72, on a three-point basket by Noelle Quinn with 51 seconds left. The Bruins even had a chance to take the lead with four seconds left, but Nikki Blue missed a 13-foot shot. The Trojans got free throws from Meghan Gnekow and Eshaya Murphy in the closing seconds to complete the scoring.

Quinn, who had 28 points and 11 rebounds, was asked if she should have taken the last shot. "There's no one here I trust more for a final shot than Nikki," Quinn said.

Blue finished with 10 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.

USC, 16-9 overall, 10-6 in the Pac-10, which had lost four of six entering Saturday's game, earned a sweep of the season series for the first time since 2001-02.

The Trojans won the first meeting in January, 73-70.

USC and UCLA (15-10, 10-6) are tied for fourth in the Pac-10, but the Trojans own the tiebreaker for seeding in the conference tournament.

"It's a big win for us because I think it gets us back into the NCAA tournament picture," USC Coach Mark Trakh said. "I thought our kids played poised the whole time, and they were especially poised when [UCLA] took the lead at the end. But Allie made a great drive to the basket, then stepped up and hit two big free throws."

Trakh believes the Bruins can still get in -- "They're capable of making the Sweet 16," he said -- but UCLA probably has no more margin for error, starting next weekend in Oregon, if they want to impress the NCAA selection committee.

"We had talked about the last three games all week, and I had told them I thought we needed to win all three because that needed to be our mentality," UCLA Coach Kathy Olivier said. "Win two of three and I think we'll still be right there in the hunt. But USC did a lot of good things today. It shows you how competitive the Pac-10 is."

Before Saturday, the Bruins' only defeat in 11 previous home games was to Brigham Young on Nov. 22.

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