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UCLA keeps ahead of pesky USC in 74-67 victory

Jasmine Dixon and Darxia Morris lead No. 10 Bruins, who use 9-2 late run at Galen Center to put the game away. Trojans' repeated mistakes keep them from closing gap.

February 06, 2011|By Baxter Holmes

A strong contingent of UCLA fans turned the Galen Center into Pauley Pavilion East on Sunday afternoon, filling the Trojans' home arena with thick blotches of Bruins blue.

UCLA women's basketball Coach Nikki Caldwell, for one, was impressed.

"Especially with it being Super Bowl Sunday," she said after her team's 74-67 win against USC, the No. 10 Bruins' fourth straight victory against their crosstown rival.

UCLA (19-2, 9-1 in Pacific 10 Conference) fought off the pesky Trojans (13-8, 5-5), as forward Jasmine Dixon

, a junior from Long Beach, and senior guard Darxia Morris came up with key baskets each time USC closed to within a few points.

UCLA used a 9-2 late run to seal a game the Bruins never led by more than nine points, a contrast from its 19-point win against USC at Pauley Pavilion last month.

Dixon recorded season-highs in points (23) and rebounds (14) and Morris added a career-high 24 points, the first time this season UCLA has had two players score 20 or more in the same game. The Bruins continued their best start since the 1976-77 team won 20 of its first 22 games.

"If nothing else, we made them shake a little bit," USC Coach Michael Cooper said.

Playing in front of a crowd of 2,812 that got in for free, USC trailed by just four at halftime after not letting UCLA runs of 10-3 and 10-2 turn the game into a rout.

In the second half, Stephanie Gilbreath, sister to USC senior guard Briana, hit a three-point shot with 6:30 left to cap a 9-2 run and pull USC to within two.

But USC, which was led by 16 points from junior guard Jackie Gemelos, made repeated mistakes that kept it from coming closer, such as a missed wide-open layup by sophomore forward Christina Marinacci that could have tied the game with 5:40 left.

"Against the elite teams," Cooper said, "you've got to take advantage of the little baskets that you get."

UCLA out-rebounded USC, 37-25, and most of UCLA's 17 second-chance points came on the seven offensive rebounds by Dixon.

"I was talking about her the other day, I was saying Dixon is one of the best players in the country because one-on-one she's very tough to defend," Caldwell said, "and she plays so much bigger than what she is."

Dixon, who is 6 feet tall, left the game briefly with a right shoulder in the first half injury but returned. She later said the shoulder was just sore, and had it wrapped in ice.

"I expect all the bumps and bruises because I'm undersized, so everybody thinks they can just push me around and do whatever, so I'm going to fight back and do what I have to do to get position," Dixon said.

USC wasn't frustrated by UCLA's press defense as it had been last month.

"Once we got across half court, we handled the traps they were going to throw at us," said USC senior guard Ashley Corral, who scored 13 points.

Then USC attacked open gaps in UCLA's defense, which Caldwell said were too wide.

"I would drive against us," she said, half-joking.

But UCLA prevailed, earning a regular season sweep of its rival and its first regular season win in five games at the Galen Center since the building opened in 2006.

USC, meanwhile, has lost four of five.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

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