Rivalry Finally Turns Bruin Way

Times Staff Writer

USC's women's basketball team waltzed into Pauley Pavilion Sunday and stumbled out two hours later wondering how UCLA is doing what it's doing.

The Bruins may be small and slight, but they're rolling. Their sixth consecutive victory came against the Trojans in a 72-64 decision before a crowd of 6,172, made up mostly of high school teenagers who were on a promotional campus visit.

UCLA's record remained spotless in the Pacific 10 Conference (5-0) and the Bruins improved to 10-4 overall in defeating USC for the first time in four games. UCLA has already surpassed last season's victory total.

"We're just playing real well together right now," said Bruin guard Michelle Greco, who led all scorers with 28 points.

Greco, who missed both USC games last season because of concussions, scored the game's final seven points after the Trojans used a 13-2 spurt to get within 65-64 with 1:17 left to play. It was Greco's three-point play -- a layup over USC's Meghan Gnekow and subsequent free throw -- that halted the final Trojan push.

There were other lapses by USC (6-10, 1-4) that led to its eighth loss in the last 10 games.

The Trojans shot 40.3% for the game and missed all five of their three-point attempts. They outrebounded UCLA, 43-33, but committed 21 turnovers. And, after closing to within a point, the Trojans missed five shots and committed four fouls in the final 1:17 -- including a foul on Greco with the shot clock down to three.

"That's one time we weren't smart," USC Coach Chris Gobrecht said.

Greco, who played all 40 minutes, made all 12 of her free throws and had seven rebounds. Nikki Blue had 12 points.

Aisha Hollans led USC with 17 points, and Rachel Woodward added 11. But UCLA balanced that by harassing USC's Ebony Hoffman and Rometra Craig into a combined seven-for-24 shooting afternoon. Hoffman finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds. Craig had nine points.

Gobrecht wanted to put a good face on the Trojans' latest effort.

"UCLA is playing as well as it can, and we're not close to playing our best," Gobrecht said. "And we're still in the game with a minute to play. The Bruins play a very different game, often using five guards, and it's tough to defend. The challenge will be for them to sustain that level of play. We're going through a rough stretch, but I know we can and will play better."

The first signal of the rivalry came during the opening jump. Only USC's Hoffman and UCLA's Jamila Veasley exchanged handshakes. The other eight players were too intent on beginning play. And the Bruins were in an edgy mood from the start, the men's team having lost to USC on Wednesday and the football loss to the Trojans still fresh in the minds of UCLA fans.

"The last couple of days people were coming up to us saying 'You've got to win today, we've got to get one from USC,' " said Bruin reserve guard Gennifer Arranaga, who had nine points.

The Trojans first attacked the Bruins' zone trap patiently, avoiding the urge to get into a faster tempo than they wanted to play.

Once in their halfcourt, the Trojans worked pick-and-roll pass plays to perfection, getting several layups and building a 15-9 lead. On defense, they forced UCLA to shoot from 15 feet or more and didn't give up more than one attempt.

"They had a very good game plan," UCLA Coach Kathy Olivier said. "They were mixing up their defenses and keeping us out of sync."

But an 11-2 run put UCLA back on top, 24-21, at the 4:58 mark. The Bruins led 32-27 at the half .

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