LOS ANGELES (AP)Emily Bessoir scored 16 points and No. 10 UCLA survived a late rally to beat Southern California 59-56 on Thursday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
Charisma Osborne added 14 points and 13 rebounds and Kiki Rice scored 14 points for the Bruins (10-1), who won despite shooting 32.9% from the field.
”Offensively, we had very poor rhythm, that’s an understatement. I realize we didn’t shoot it very well,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. ”I felt like we earned some confidence that defense and rebounding against a really good team, a really good rebounding team, that can be our anchor.”
Kadi Sissoko led the Trojans (9-1) with 20 points. Rayah Marshall had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Destiny Littleton added 10 points.
UCLA had a 52-44 lead at the end of the third quarter. USC rallied back by scoring the first seven points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer by Marshall to get them to 52-51 before a layup by Bessoir snapped a Bruins’ scoring drought of nearly seven minutes.
The Trojans had a chance to tie on their next possession when Marshall was fouled by Bessoir on a 3-point attempt, but the sophomore made only one free throw. The Bruins then scored the next three points to get some breathing room when Rice made a free throw and Bessoir got a basket after Rice missed her second foul shot.
USC had a chance to send it to overtime when Littleton got a rebound off Camryn Brown’s missed layup with 11.8 seconds left. After a timeout, the Trojans tried to get a 3-pointer in the corner but UCLA’s Gina Conti got a steal with 2 seconds left to preserve the win.
”We had a couple close games earlier this season. I think our experience really just showed tonight,” Osborne said. ”I think we did a great job of just staying together and not just putting our heads down and just trying to do it by ourselves.”
The Trojans were looking to go 10-0 for the first time since 2015-16, when that squad won their first 12 games, but coach Lindsay Gottlieb said she was happy with the way her team was able to fight back.
”To hold a Top 10 team to 59 points, we have to score more than 56,” Gottlieb said. ”There are some things that going to haunt me like the missed free throws and possessions in the first half. Or in that second quarter we gave up too many points. There’s a lot to learn from it. It’s on me to figure out how to get us able to score more points in critical situations.”
The game was tied at 22 midway through the second quarter before UCLA went on a 12-2 run that included five points each from Bessoir and Rice. The Bruins largest lead was 39-28 at halftime.
USC: The Trojans are ninth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (32.7%), but were outrebounded by 11.
UCLA: The Bruins were held to a season low 59 points, but found a way to get a key win on the road.
UCLA: Hosts CSU Bakersfield on Saturday.
USC: Faces Texas on Sunday in Dallas.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25