Up six points entering the fourth quarter against No. 8 UCLA on Friday, USC huddled together on the bench. The Trojans saw their opportunity for a major upset. “Get it to 10,” they said among themselves.
Michaela Onyenwere ended that goal.
UCLA’s star forward led a late Bruins rally in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament as she scored 14 of her team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter of a 73-66 victory. The seventh-seeded Trojans committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter and the second-seeded Bruins (26-4) advanced to their fifth straight Pac-12 tournament semifinal, where they will face Stanford at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Friday’s game was just the second time this season that USC had lost when leading entering the fourth quarter. The Trojans (17-14) turned the ball over five times on in-bounds passes in the fourth quarter as the Bruins scored 24 total points off turnovers.
“The tougher, more together team wins in March,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “It took us a while to become that.”
With each Trojans miscue, the UCLA bench grew more boisterous.
The Trojans committed only eight turnovers in the first three quarters, but coming off a hard-fought first-round victory over Colorado on Thursday night, his players “ran out of gas,” coach Mark Trakh said.
Onyenwere was just getting started. The junior scored all 10 of UCLA’s first points in the fourth quarter, with eight coming off USC turnovers. She hustled for 15 rebounds, with five in the fourth quarter.
“It is amazing the things she can do,” said UCLA’s Lindsey Corsaro, who had 11 points. “And she works every day at practice.”
All-Pac-12 guard Japreece Dean had nine points on two-of-11 shooting for UCLA with nine assists. With their senior leader struggling to score from the field, the Bruins found life with Natalie Chou, who had 14 points on five-of-five shooting.
USC used just seven players and had four in double-digit scoring, led by 18 from freshman Endyia Rogers. Senior Kayla Overbeck added 12 points with 13 rebounds.
Pac-12 freshman of the year Alissa Pili averaged 23.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in her two regular-season contests against UCLA but was held to 11 points and six rebounds in 20 foul-plagued minutes.
After the team’s split the regular-season series, it was fitting that the rubber-match went back and forth. USC scored the game’s first 11 points and finished with 23 points in the first quarter. The Bruins blitzed the Trojans for 25 points in the second quarter and took a one-point halftime lead. USC pulled back in front with 12 unanswered points to finish the third quarter before the turnovers unraveled their upset bid.
Despite Friday’s loss, the Trojans, who won their previous four games, are poised for a spot in the WNIT as the highest team in the Pac-12 standings not slated for the NCAA tournament.
“We have another opportunity to play together as a team,” said senior Aliyah Jeune, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds. “We’re going to go into this WNIT with a winning mind-set and a lot of momentum to win the whole thing.”
Other Pac-12 quarterfinal games
No. 7 Stanford 68, No. 14 Oregon State 57: The third-seeded Cardinal (26-5) raced to a 25-10 lead after one quarter and never looked back in their victory over the sixth-seed Beavers (23-9). Stanford was led by Kiana Williams’ 23 points.
No. 3 Oregon 79, Utah 59: Sabrina Ionescu scored 19 points to lead the top-seeded Ducks (29-2) past the eighth-seeded Utes (14-17). Oregon connected on eight consecutive three-point shots to close the first half and seize momentum. Satou Sabally added 17 points for the Ducks. Utah, which defeated Washington in the opening round, was paced by freshmen Lola Pendande and Brynna Maxwell, who scored 15 and 12 points, respectively. Oregon will face Arizona in Saturday’s first semifinal.
No. 13 Arizona 86, California 73: Cate Reese scored a career-high 30 points on 13-for-15 shooting, and the Wildcats (24-6), seeded fourth, defeated the 12th-seeded Golden Bears (12-19) in the quarterfinals. Aari McDonald added 13 points for Arizona, which lost to Cal 55-54 on the final day of the regular season.The Bears, who upset fifth-seeded and 24th-ranked Arizona State in the opening round, were led by Jaelyn Brown with 25 points.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this roundup.