UCLA’s No. 12 women’s basketball looks to beat rival USC – Orange County Register

Rivalry week comes at an interesting time for the Los Angeles Pac-12 women’s basketball teams.

Sunday’s 2 p.m. game between USC and No. 12 UCLA at the Pauley Pavilion could impact competitive conference scoring, and it’s also unclear if top scorers from both teams will play.

“The opportunity to play at UCLA gets the juices flowing because it matters more than anything in the Pac-12 standings,” said USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “It’s a chance for us to play against a top 15 team and it’s also a chance to be proud of the LA rivalry.”

UCLA is second in the Pac-12 with their 2-1 conference record in a four-way tie. USC is tied with four teams 1-2 for third place. The former comes from a win over Oregon and a loss to Oregon State, while the latter defeated Oregon State and lost to Oregon.

Both teams were left without their top scorer in their respective defeats. Trojan Kadi Sissoko (15.3 ppg) is suffering from an undisclosed injury daily, and the Bruins’ Charisma Osborne has a “50-50” chance of playing due to a shoulder injury, according to UCLA coach Cori Close.

USC still has its greatest asset in Rayah Marshall, a sophomore who was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Jan. 2 after recording her fifth straight double-double. Valuable on both sides of the court, the guard/forward is seventh in the nation in double-doubles with eight this season.

The 6-foot-4 former Lynwood High star is also third in the country with 38 blocks, 15th with 10.8 offensive rebounds per game and 16th with 7.7 defensive rebounds per game.

The Trojans will likely lean on Marshall as they try to pressure the Bruins, who repelled a Trojans surge in the fourth quarter for a 59-56 win on Dec. 15 at the Galen Center.

“We expect them to anchor us defensively and then Kayla (Williams), our point guard, starts us off with a lot of pressure on the ball,” Gottlieb said, “but we really have to make an effort from everyone on the ground because the UCLA is so talented.”

Osborne, who can score but is also a strong defender, left the Oregon game after suffering a shoulder sprain in the fourth quarter. The Bruins won that game with a next-woman-up mentality but dropped the next one 77-72 to the Beavers.

“We train every day with different formations and can really only play to each other’s strengths and then simply communicate too much on the defensive,” says guard Gina Conti on how the Bruins work if Osborne is out.

Conti did great against Oregon State with 19 points and six assists. The grad student leads the team with 59 assists (4.2 per game) after being sidelined with injury last season. It’s her first season in game action for UCLA following her transfer from Wake Forest.

Others who have carved out roles this season include newcomers Kiki Rice and Londynn Jones, as well as Emily Bessoir and Camryn Brown.

Rice averages the most minutes of any Pac-12 rookie and is second on the team for goals (13.4 ppg) and assists (49). Jones scored a season-high 17 points in the loss at Corvallis. Bessoir led the Bruins in the win over USC with 16 points and is second on the team in rebounds (5.0 rpg).

Brown has posted career highs in rebounds, assists and steals this season, but her real value is in the form of intangibles.

“She’s our coach on the ground and it’s very rare for a coach to say something like that about a forward,” Close said.

https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/07/no-12-ucla-womens-basketball-looks-to-sweep-rival-usc/ UCLA’s No. 12 women’s basketball looks to beat rival USC – Orange County Register

Russell Falcon

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