As UCLA approaches making school history, Cori Close is not yet impressed. Even an 83-59 rout over rival USC on Sunday didn’t please the UCLA coach. That’s because the 10th-ranked Bruins don’t just want to dominate the city, they want to be a force in the conference.
“There’s no excuses,” Close said after her team matched the best start in program history with its 12th straight win. “I think we had spurts where we showed some really good things, but we also showed some lapses that just cannot happen if you want to play at the highest levels in this conference.”
After Sunday’s rout, UCLA (12-0, 1-0) set itself up for a bigger test against Arizona State and No. 18 Arizona next weekend at Pauley Pavilion. While UCLA prepares to fight among the Pac-12’s elite, USC (8-4, 0-1) is struggling to keep up with a young team that at times had five freshmen on the court Sunday.
USC freshman Alissa Pili stepped up with 28 points, a career high, and 10 rebounds, but the Anchorage native stood little chance alone against UCLA, which dominated offensively with four double-digit scorers and swarmed on defense with 18 forced turnovers.
Forward Michaela Onyenwere (21 points, eight rebounds) and guard Japreece Dean (21 points, eight assists) led the Bruins while freshman Charisma Osborne added her first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Forward Lauryn Miller had 11 points and a career-high four assists.
“That was an awakening and I don’t think we were ready for the speed of the game that they went out with at first,” Pili said. “We kinda caught up a little bit but it slipped away at the end.”
Dean scored 17 points in the second half as UCLA’s lead ballooned to as many as 30. The Bruins caught fire from the three-point line, sinking seven long-range shots in the second half after just two in the first.
UCLA extended its winning streak over unranked opponents to 19. The last unranked team to beat UCLA was USC when the Trojans shocked the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion last January.
But with five of the eight players who earned minutes Sunday being freshmen, the Trojans didn’t have a similar upset in store. USC gave up a season-high 83 points, shattering the previous high of 64 allowed to No. 11 Texas A&M on Nov. 23. UCLA scored 19 points off turnovers and had 18 in transition.
“Once in a while you’re going to get a game like this,” USC coach Mark Trakh said. “The key is to just take the tape and learn from it and burn it and come back the next day.”
When 6-foot-5 center Angel Jackson spurred an 8-2 USC run in the third quarter that cut the deficit to seven with 6:10 left, UCLA called a time out. Close challenged her players in the huddle, saying they weren’t playing to their potential. They responded with a 22-8 run to finish the quarter.
“There’s a pride in who they want to become,” Close said. “We’re not there, yet, but it’s in the pursuit of those levels and I thought they responded.”
UCLA, which is celebrating its centennial this season, honored women’s basketball alumni at midcourt during halftime. The group included Denise Curry, a three-time All-American and the program’s all-time leading scorer, and Jordin Canada, the Pac-12’s all-time assist leader. Close, who said she’s been feeling nostalgic for the program’s roots in recent weeks, was happy to honor the program’s alumni with UCLA’s first 12-0 start since 1980-81.
“[The win comes] with great humility, but also really awareness that this is a really special place with a lot of special people who have helped us tie for the best start in program history,” Close said.