UCLA Drops Close Contest To USC, 80-77

Feb. 26, 2005

Los Angeles, CA - In the regular season finale at the Sports Arena, the UCLA women's basketball team lost a close contest to USC, falling 80-77 in front of 5,222. Lisa Willis (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Lindsey Pluimer (16 points, 11 rebounds) each had double-doubles in a losing effort. UCLA shot 80.8% from the free throw line (21-26), but missed key foul shots down the stretch.

The game went back-and-forth between the two teams the entire contest. After UCLA jumped out to leads of 10-2 and 14-5 to start the game, USC, went on an 8-1 run to close to within two, 15-13, on a Megan Gnekow three-pointer at 13:13. A Willis three-pointer extended UCLA's lead to five, 20-15, but turnovers plagued UCLA after that point, and the Trojans came back to take a 22-20 lead at 10:27 on a Rachel Woodward jumper. Layups from Woodward and Kim Gipson gave USC a 26-20 lead and closed a 21-5 run.

UCLA got back into the game thanks to big play from Shaina Zaidi off the bench. Zaidi hit a three-pointer to close to within three (26-23) at 8:50, and a Pluimer three-pointer at 7:30 tied it again at 26. Three Zaidi free throws helped UCLA regain the lead at 7:01, 29-26, but Brynn Cameron came right back with a three-pointer to tie again. A fast-break layup from Gipson gave USC a 35-32 lead at 2:57, but Nikki Blue came right back with a layup as she was fouled, and her free throw tied the game at 35. But back-to-back three-pointers from Cameron allowed USC to take its biggest lead of the game, 41-35 at 1:45. Zaidi helped UCLA close to within two with a free throw and another three-pointer. Gnekow and Willis traded three-pointers to make the score 44-42, but Gnekow closed the half by banking a three-pointer with two seconds left for the final halftime score of 47-42.

The two teams combined for 17 three-pointers in the half, with UCLA making eight and USC nine.

UCLA chipped away at the lead early in the half, with Blue hitting a short jumper on the Bruins' first possession. Willis launched a long three-pointer to tie at 47 at the 19:09 mark, forcing USC to take a quick time out. The Women of Troy used their timeout well and regained the lead, 55-49. A Conseulo Lezcano jumper at 12:20 gave UCLA its first lead since 7:01 in the first half, 56-55, but Cameron once again answered with a three-pointer, her fifth of the game. Pluimer free throws tied the game up again at 58-58, and Ortal Oren's jumper at 9:10 gave UCLA a 62-60 lead. USC came right back, as Camile LeNoir connected on consecutive jumpers to put the Women of Troy up by three, 65-62 at 8:11. USC extended the lead to 72-66 with 5:11 to play. A Blue jumper at 2:48 brought UCLA to within two at 72-70.

A pivotal moment in the game came at 1:50 when Pluimer pulled down a rebound on a missed USC three-pointer but was called for an offensive foul, her fifth of the game. USC missed the front end of the one-and-one, and Lezcano earned a trip to the free throw line, where she made one of two to close to within one, 72-71, with 1:34 to play. But USC made 5-6 free throws in the next minute to claim a 77-71 lead with 41 seconds to play.

UCLA did not give up, however. With 21 seconds to play, Willis connected on a huge three-pointer to cut USC's lead to three, 77-74. Pressure defense from UCLA on the inbounds forced LeNoir to travel, and the Bruins regained possession. With 12 seconds to play, Willis was fouled on a three-pointer and had a chance to tie, but she made two of her three free throws. Murphy made one of two foul shots with 10 seconds left to go up 78-76. Blue also had a chance to tie with six seconds left but missed the first of two free throws. A pair of LeNoir free throws put USC up by three with three seconds left, and Blue's last-second three-pointer failed to connect, giving USC the win.

Blue had her string of six consecutive 20-point games snapped with 19 points. She also had nine assists. Zaidi scored a career-high 10 points in eight minutes, the most points in a game by any Bruin reserve this season. All five USC starters were in double figures, led by Cameron's 17 points and 10 rebounds.

The Bruins finished the regular season with a 16-11 overall record and a 10-8 Pac-10 record that placed them sixth in the conference. As the sixth seed in the Pac-10 Tournament, which is being held at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, UCLA will face third-seeded Arizona State in the second round on Saturday, Mar. 5 at 11 am. USC (18-9, 12-6) is the fourth seed and will face fifth-seeded Arizona.

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