The ending was amazing. Or excruciating.
It depended on whether you were rooting for USC or UCLA on Monday night at Pauley Pavilion.
The USC women's basketball team edged UCLA, 56-54, in front of a noisy crowd of 3,297 even after the Bruins' Nirra Fields was inexplicably fouled by Brianna Barrett on a desperate three-point attempt with less than a second left.
Fields, who caught an inbounds pass that came with 0.8 seconds left, missed the first of her free throw attempts, made the second and purposely missed the third but USC came up with the ball and the win.
It was the opening Pac-12 Conference game for both teams.
USC's Ariya Crook, a 5-foot-7 guard, was almost unstoppable until she pulled a hamstring and missed the final two minutes.
Crook had a game-high 25 points — 21 in the first half — and five rebounds but at the end, when the game mattered, she was lying on the floor trying to have her hamstring fixed somehow and it didn't happen.
Atonye Nyingifa led the Bruins (6-7) with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, a former All-American player for the Trojans (8-5), is now a perfect 9-0 against the Bruins as a player and a coach and called this win "gutsy."
"We didn't get off to a great start," Cooper-Dyke said. "But Ariya's scoring fueled our offense early and allowed us to run.
"In the second half we executed better, made some good decisions and I'm proud of the way we held on."
Cooper-Dyke said she didn't necessarily agree with the foul on Barrett but she also said she had lectured her team during a final timeout on one thing: "We were not supposed to foul under any circumstance."
UCLA, which went to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, started the game with only eight healthy players. At the end of the first half, Lauren Holiday hit her head on the knee of a USC player, couldn't return and the Bruins had only seven players to start the second half.
Then point guard Thea Lemberger and backup Corinne Costa fouled out and by the end of the game the Bruins were playing with only five players.
And yet they almost won.
Coach Cori Close gave Fields the responsibility to hold down Crook in the second half and Fields was never further than an inch away from the USC guard who Cooper said has the potential to play in the WNBA.
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