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PAC-10 WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

USC women keep NCAA tournament hopes alive

Led by Camille LeNoir, the Trojans knock off No. 16 Arizona State, 70-65, to advance to the Pac-10 tournament semifinals

March 14, 2009|Gary Klein

UCLA's 62-56 comeback victory over Oregon State on Friday night at the Galen Center gave the Bruins exactly what they were hoping for in the Pacific 10 Conference women's basketball tournament:

A chance to knock off Stanford and impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.

UCLA plays the second-ranked Cardinal tonight in a semifinal at 8:30. USC plays 12th-ranked California in the other semifinal at 6.

UCLA (19-11) lost twice to Stanford in February, falling 69-58 in the second game.

"We've measured up to them, and we've competed with them," UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell said. "We just have to do it for 40 [minutes]."

UCLA earned the opportunity by overcoming a five-point halftime deficit to defeat an Oregon State team that beat the Bruins last week in the regular-season finale.

UCLA forward Atonye Nyingifa led the way Friday by scoring 12 of her team-high 18 points in the second half. The freshman made several inside shots off sharp and creative passes from guards Doreena Campbell and Darxia Morris, each of whom scored 10 points.

"In the second half I think we just played more as a team and the ball was just really flowing for us and we got better shots and open looks," Nyingifa said.

Oregon State (19-11) built a 26-21 halftime lead behind senior guard Brittney Davis, who scored 15 of her 22 points in the first 20 minutes.

UCLA tied the score, 41-41, on a basket by Morris with 9:29 left, and then took the lead, 46-45, on a three-pointer by Rebekah Gardner with 5:45 left. The lead changed hands twice before Nyingifa made a jump shot and a free throw to complete a three-point play that put the Bruins ahead for good, 51-49, with 3:32 left.

USC 70, Arizona State 65 -- Senior point guard Camille LeNoir scored a team-best 18 points, had eight assists and, perhaps most impressive, did not commit a turnover as the Trojans (16-14) defeated the 16th-ranked Sun Devils.

It was USC's first victory this season over a ranked opponent and the first time in eight games that the Trojans defeated Arizona State (23-8).

LeNoir took advantage of the absence of Arizona State junior point guard Dymond Simon, who was on the bench because of a season-ending knee injury suffered last week. Sun Devils defensive stopper Briann January donned Simon's No. 1 jersey, but she could not slow LeNoir. The Trojans made six of eight three-point shots in the second half.

Heather Oliver, a junior guard from Australia who had 17 points, made five of eight three-point shots, including four of four in the second half.

"The coaches have been on me about, like just my confidence and getting the ball and just shooting it," Oliver said. "And so I was like, 'What the heck. This could be our last game so just shoot the ball,' and they went in."

--

gary.klein@latimes.com

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