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Bruins Take on Trojans, Eye Back-to-Back Wins Over Rival

Jan 22, 2022
Natalie Chou (photo by Lauryn MIller)

UCLA Bruins (8-4, 3-1) vs. USC Trojans (9-6, 2-3)
Date: Sunday, Jan. 23
Time: 6:00 p.m. PT
Location: Galen Center (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Watch: Pac-12 Network (Anne Marie Anderson, Ros Gold-Onwude)
Listen: (Dave Marcus)

Sunday's matchup between the Bruins and Trojans is the 103rd all-time meeting between the Los Angeles programs, with UCLA holding a 52-50 advantage in the series. The Bruins are looking for their second-straight regular season sweep of the Trojans and have won the last four matchups in the series.   

The Trojans enter Sunday's contest at 9-6 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 play. USC has struggled on the offensive end this season, ranking ninth in the Pac-12 with just 67.3 points per game and 11th in the Pac-12 in threes made per game (5.4). USC picked up a signature victory with a home win over Arizona on Jan. 9, but has since lost three of its last five games .Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb is in her first year at the helm of the Trojan program after two seasons as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers and eight seasons as Head Coach at California. She led the Golden Bears to the Final Four in 2013.

RECAP -- UCLA vs. USC (Jan. 20)
IImar'I Thomas recorded a game-high 20 points as UCLA (8-4, 3-1) earned its third-straight victory with a dominant, 66-43, victory over crosstown rival, USC (9-5, 2-3). The Bruins now boast a four-game winning streak in the crosstown rivalry and have outscored the Trojans, 232-146 across the last three meetings. Charisma Osborne and Natalie Chou contributed 11 and 10 points apiece, respectively. Dominique Onu earned the start and added nine points on 4-for-9 shooting. The Trojans committed 27 turnovers and shot just 2-for-17 from beyond the arc.

LOOKING BACK -- UCLA vs. USC in 2020-21
The Bruins notched a dominant season sweep of the Trojans during the 2020-21 season. UCLA opened the series with a 73-52 win at Galen Center on Dec. 13, 2020, with Michaela Onyenwere and Charisma Osborne combining for 37 points in the victory. The Bruins would hold the Trojans without a field goal in the third quarter and outscored USC, 20-5, in the frame, to leave the eventual outcome in no doubt. Later in the season, the Bruins posted a resounding, 93-51 victory at Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom on Feb. 26, 2021. UCLA knocked down a program-record 16 three-pointers and Osborne recorded a triple-double in the win. Onyenwere was also sensational, totaling 30 points on the day and going a perfect 6-for-6 from long range.

• A win would improve the Bruins to 53-50 all-time against the Trojans.
• UCLA swept the season series against the Trojans last year and outscored USC, 166-103 across the two games.
• In the Bruins' win over USC on Feb. 26, 2021, the Bruins hit a program-record 16 triples, Charisma Osborne recorded just the ninth triple-double in program history, and Michaela Onyenwere scored 30 points and went 6-for-6 from the three-point line.
• The Bruins are the only team in the Pac-12 with two players among the league's top five scorers (2. Osborne, 3. Thomas).
• The Bruins lead the Pac-12 in free throw percentage at 77.3 percent.
• Charisma Osborne has scored in double figures in each of her last 14 games dating back to last season.
• The Bruins forced a season-high 27 turnovers in Thursday's win over the Trojans (Jan. 20).
• The Bruins grabbed a season-high 15 steals against USC, with Natalie Chou securing five on the day (Jan. 20).
• All seven players for the Bruins grabbed multiple rebounds against the Trojans, with IImar'I Thomas leading the way with seven (Jan. 20).

• Charisma Osborne has scored 962 points in her career, just 38 away from 1,000.
• Charisma Osborne has knocked down 142 three-pointers across her career, just eight away from 150.
• Charisma Osborne has dished out 171 assists across her career, just 29 away from 200.
• Natalie Chou has scored 927 points across her career, just 73 away from 1,000.
• Natalie Chou has knocked down 149 three-pointers across her career, just one away from 150.
• Natalie Chou has grabbed 399 rebounds across her career, just one away from 400.
• Jaelynn Penn has scored 1,467 points across her career, just 33 away from 1,500.
• Chantel Horvat has scored 456 points across her career, just 44 away from 500.
• Chantel Horvat has dished out 95 assists across her career, just five away from 100.

• The Bruins lead the Pac-12 in fewest turnovers committed with just 13.4 per game.
• Jaelynn Penn has scored in double figures in nine of 11 games this season, including six games with at least 15 points.
• Kayla Owens has started 11 of 12 games for the Bruins after not making a single start in her previous three seasons with the team.
• Dominique Onu earned the start against USC and contributed nine points on 4-for-9 shooting.

UCLA's 1-2 PUNCH -- Charisma Osborne and IImar'I Thomas
UCLA is the only team in the Pac-12 with a pair of players among the league's top five scorers, with junior guard Charisma Osborne currently second with 17.6 points per game and graduate transfer forward IImar'I Thomas third at 17.5 points per game. Osborne stuffed the stat sheet against USC, putting up 11 points, six rebounds, and a season-high seven assists. Thomas has impressed in her first season with the Bruins after transferring from Cincinnati, compiling 11 double-digit scoring efforts, including a 32-point performance in UCLA's dominant victory over San Jose State (Dec. 5). Osborne and Thomas have both scored in double figures in each of the Bruins' last eight games. 

UCLA alumnae have a strong presence playing professionally overseas. Here is a rundown of the program's current professionals playing in leagues all over the world:
• Kennedy Burke ('19) -- Spar Girona -- Spain
• Rebekah Gardner ('12) -- Spar Girona -- Spain
• Michaela Onyenwere ('21) -- Spar Girona -- Spain
• Monique Billings ('18) -- JCU Townsville -- Australia
• Jordin Canada ('18) -- Uni Gyor Mely-Ut -- Hungary
• Nirra Fields ('16) -- Izmit -- Turkey
• Ally Rosenblum ('20) -- A.S. Ramat Hasharon -- Israel
• Atonye Nyingifa ('14) -- Clarinos -- Spain

The Bruins have signed ESPN's No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for the high school class of 2022. It's the second No. 1-ranked class for the Bruins, as the 2014 recruiting haul included Lajahna Dummer and Kelli Hayes, as well as future WNBA pros Jordin Canada and Monique Billings. UCLA is now the only Pac-12 school since 2010 to sign multiple No. 1 classes and one of just four schools in the country to accomplish the feat since 2010. It should be noted that Kiki Rice is the highest-ranked recruit in UCLA WBB history and Gabriela Jaquez is the sister of UCLA MBB star Jaime Jaquez Jr. The current class features:
SIGNEEES: #2-ranked Kiki Rice (5-11 point guard), #19-ranked Gabriela Jaquez (6-0 forward), #22-ranked Londynn Jones (5-5 point guard), #49-ranked Christeen Iwuala (6-3 forward), and German standout Lina Sontag.

HISTORIC GAME RECAP -- UCLA vs. San José State (Dec. 5)
• The Bruins defeated the Spartans, 112-33. It was the second-most points the Bruins have scored in a game during Coach Close's 11-year tenure (129 vs. San José State on Nov. 10, 2017).
• UCLA held the Spartans scoreless in the second quarter.
• Natalie Chou (31 pts) and IImar'I Thomas (32 pts) each put up 30+ point performances. It was only the third time in Pac-12 history since at least 1999-00 that two players from the same team scored at least 30 points in a single game.
• The Bruins assisted on 31 of 43 made baskets, the most assists in a game by UCLA since at least 1999-00.

PROLIFIC CAREER -- IImar'I Thomas at Cincinnati
Graduate forward IImar'I Thomas currently ranks third in the Pac-12 with 17.5 points per game and is coming off a 20-point outing in the team's win over USC (Jan. 22). Thomas transferred to UCLA this past offseason following a sensational four-year career with Cincinnati. She ranks third all-time in scoring with 1,925 points and is the only player in program history to record 1,900+ points and 800+ rebounds. She was the 2021 AAC Player of the Year after averaging 23.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest. Thomas scored in double figures 89 times as a Bearcat and recorded 37 games with at least 20 points. She was a three-time First Team All-AAC selection and the 2018 AAC Freshman of the Year.

2021 WNBA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- Michaela Onyenwere
After an historic Bruin career that saw her graduate as the program's fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,888 points, Michaela Onyenwere became the first UCLA WBB alumna to earn the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award. She was also the first Bruin basketball player since Jamaal Wilkes in 1975 to be named Rookie of the Year. She started 29 of 32 games for New York and went on to lead all rookies in scoring with 8.6 points per game. She notched nine double-digit scoring performances, including a 29-point outing against the Atlanta Dream on May 29. Onyenwere was third among rookies with 2.9 rebounds per contest and secured a career-high 10 boards against the Minnesota Lynx on Aug. 31. New York earned the eighth seed in WNBA Playoffs and fell in a heartbreaking 83-82 loss to the Phoenix Mercury. It was the first playoff appearance for New York since 2017.

WELCOME (BACK) TO WESTWOOD -- Transfers and Returners
The Bruins notably have eight players who did not suit up for the program a season ago. Coach Close reloaded with four transfers to fill out the roster: Gina Conti (point guard, Wake Forest), Angela Dugalic (forward, Oregon), Jaelynn Penn (guard, Indiana), and IImar'I Thomas (forward, Cincinnati). UCLA fans can enjoy the returns of Brynn Masikewich, Kayla Owens, and Kiara Jefferson, none of whom were with the program last season for various reasons. Redshirt freshman Izzy Anstey is also with the team for the first time, as the Australia native was unable to travel to the United States last year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

UCLA maintained a strong presence in the WNBA this past season, as the Bruins had representation on the court, the sideline, and the front office across various organizations.
• Michaela Onyenwere earned Rookie of the Year honors with the New York Liberty, becoming the first UCLA Women's Basketball alumna to earn the honor. She averaged 8.6 points per game and won each of the league's four Rookie of the Month awards.
• Jordin Canada ('18) finished her fourth season with the Seattle Storm, putting up 5.8 points and 3.0 assists per game. Canada also boasts an apparel deal with Jumpman, as does UCLA Women's Basketball.
• Noelle Quinn ('07) was named Head Coach of the Seattle Storm during the 2021 season and guided the team to the WNBA playoffs.
• Monique Billings ('18) finished her fourth season in the WNBA with the Atlanta Dream. Billings averaged 8.1 points per game and grabbed 6.5 rebounds per contest.
• Kennedy Burke ('19) was traded to the Seattle Storm during the 2021 season and was reunited with former UCLA teammate, Jordin Canada. Burke averaged 2.9 points per game last season.
• Former Bruin sharpshooter Kari Korver ('17) finished her second season as the Director of Operations for the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Bruins have been represented on the following national award watch lists and preseason teams:
Charisma Osborne: Preseason All-Pac-12 team, Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year Award Top 20 Watch List, Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 watch list, Wade Watch
Gina Conti: Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year Award Top 20 Watch List, All-Pac-12 team honorable mention
Natalie Chou: Preseason All-Pac-12 team honorable mention

UP NEXT: UCLA vs. Arizona (Jan. 26)
The Bruins are back in action for a matchup against Arizona on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Network. Dave Marcus' radio broadcast is available The Bruins most recently defeated the Wildcats in the semifinals of the 2021 Pac-12 Tournament (Mar. 5).