UCLA's Mariah Williams (14) battles for a loose ball with Utah's… (Ted S. Warren / Associated…)
SEATTLE — — Pac-12 women's basketball has been a three-team conglomerate all season, with Stanford, California and UCLA dominating.
Now UCLA will get a chance to be something more than a junior partner.
The No. 14-ranked and third-seeded Bruins labored through a 54-43 victory over Utah in the conference tournament quarterfinals Friday at KeyArena, giving them another shot at No. 5 California. UCLA (24-6) plays the second-seeded Golden Bears (28-2) Saturday, and beyond that there will be a possible shot at No. 4-ranked and top-seeded Stanford.
"There is good news, and there is bad news," UCLA Coach Cori Close said about facing California again. "The good news is it's not a difficult scouting report."
The bad news would be that the Bruins will certainly need to play better than they did against the Utes (18-13).
A 29-20 halftime lead dissipated quickly for UCLA. The Utes went on a 15-2 run to take a 37-35 lead midway through the second half.
The Bruins recovered, going on a 16-2 run, to set up the meeting with the Bears. Atonye Nyingifa and Jasmine Dixon both had 11 points for UCLA.
"Boy, survive and advance, you know," Close said. "We got to be excited to play the next game."
During the regular season, the Bruins lost to California, 70-65, at Berkeley and were blown out at Pauley Pavilion, 79-51. UCLA's chances may depend on the health of Alyssia Brewer.
Brewer, UCLA's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, injured her right ankle in the first half Friday. She played 11 minutes in the second half and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
California 78, USC 59: The Trojans had an important role to play in the conference tournament: providing the fifth-ranked Bears with a light workout. USC handled that efficiently.
Cal scored the first 11 points and cruised into the semifinals. Gennifer Brandon had 17 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Bears, who had a bye in the first round of the tournament.
Cassie Harberts had 24 points for USC (11-20).