Aliyah Jeune earned this prize.
After leading USC to a stunning upset of previously unbeaten No. 7 UCLA on Friday at Galen Center, the senior guard clutched the game ball in her hands. She wore a wide grin as she spoke to reporters, basking in the glow of her team’s thrilling double-overtime 70-68 win.
“I just wanted to beat them so bad,” said the guard who scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. “We’ve been praying for this game since we lost, really.”
After getting blown out by 24 against UCLA on Dec. 29, the Trojans got revenge by ending UCLA’s 16-game winning streak.
Jeune’s timely shots, combined with freshman Alissa Pili’s 19-point, 17-rebound effort gave the Trojans (9-8, 1-5 Pac-12) their first conference win of the season and ended a five-game losing streak.
UCLA (16-1, 5-1) had been the only remaining undefeated women’s team in the country.
“I always say the pain of where you are has to be greater than the pain it will take to change,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “And this one’s pretty painful right now so I have a lot of confidence that you’ll see a lot of change.”
Jeune and Pili struggled with leg cramps during the physical game but pushed through in major moments.
After UCLA went ahead by six with 2:39 to go in the second overtime, Jeune hit a three-pointer to halve the deficit, one of her six long-range shots Friday. Pili’s three-point play with 27 seconds remaining put the Trojans up by two.
UCLA kept its hopes alive at the end of the first overtime with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Natalie Chou. But when the Baylor transfer had an identical shot with 15.5 seconds to go in the second overtime to put the Bruins ahead, the ball rattled out of the rim.
After Kayla Overbeck missed two free throws that could have iced the game, UCLA’s scrambled final possession came up empty.
“I just don’t think we deserved to win this game, even though we had plenty of opportunities,” said UCLA senior Japreece Dean, who finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds. “But we didn’t come out ready to fight.”
The Bruins were without star forward Michaela Onyenwere, who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle. Without the junior, who leads UCLA in scoring and rebounding with 17.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, the Bruins went through a nearly 16-minute drought from the field in the first half. UCLA missed 19 straight shots from the field between two quarters, including all 15 of their attempts in the second quarter.
At halftime, the Bruins trailed by 13. They hadn’t trailed by more than seven at any point all season.
USC pushed the lead to 17 with a basket from Jeune in the third quarter, but freshman Charisma Osborne willed the Bruins back into contention. The scrappy freshman scored 12 of her 20 points in the third quarter, and finished with six rebounds and four steals, but was held scoreless in both overtime periods.
As USC players rejoiced on the bench after the final buzzer, leaping into the air for chest bumps and hugs, the traveling UCLA fans stood in stunned silence. The Trojans turned the ball over 22 times and shot just 22.2% from the field in the fourth quarter but hung on for the victory through clutch shooting.
“We were able to get the ball in the right people’s hands to step up and hit those shots,” USC associate head coach Aarika Hughes said.
In the end, the ball remained in the right player’s hands. Jeune carried it out of the postgame news conference.