A season that seemed earmarked for disaster only a few weeks ago took another positive turn for the USC women's basketball team Saturday when the injury-depleted Trojans hung on to defeat UCLA, 75-72, in Pauley Pavilion.
USC, 10-7 overall and 4-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference despite having seven scholarship players sidelined because of injuries, has won four consecutive games after losing its first three conference games by 16, nine and 16 points.
The Trojans, who never trailed after the opening 10 minutes, also have won four in a row over UCLA after holding off a late surge by the Bruins.
"Needless to say, I'm really, really proud of the kids," Coach Mark Trakh said. "I'm really proud of the way they stepped up. I'm really proud of the way they persevere ... and what they've accomplished amid the adversity."
UCLA Coach Kathy Olivier didn't want to hear about it.
"I think they have more talent than they say," Olivier said of the Trojans. "They have six seniors. They've been there, done that....
"I think they sandbag a little. They're a good team."
UCLA (9-10, 3-4) lost despite a monumental effort by senior guard Noelle Quinn, who led the Bruins with 17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
Quinn helped the Bruins rally from a 13-point second-half deficit and had a chance to send the game into overtime, but her off-balance three-point shot from the right wing glanced off the front of the rim as time expired.
"You've got to tip your hat, you've got to give it up to Noelle Quinn," Trakh said. "She's just an awesome player, and she almost beat us single-handedly."
USC was led by seniors Chloe Kerr, Jamie Hagiya and Shay Murphy. Kerr scored 19 points in 24 minutes, making eight of 12 shots. Hagiya scored 13 points on five-for-nine shooting and had seven assists. Murphy had 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists, made seven of eight free throws in the final minute and harassed Lindsey Pluimer, UCLA's No. 2 scorer, into a one-for-nine shooting performance.
While Pluimer scored only four points, 12 below her average, teammates Chinyere Ibekwe and Amanda Livingston scored 16 and 12, respectively.