No. 23 UCLA holds off Southern Cal

UCLA got an assist from football coach Rick Neuheisel during

halftime of its game against rival Southern California.

Jasmine Dixon credited Neuheisel’s motivational words with

helping the 23rd-ranked Bruins hold on to beat USC 59-53 in the

semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament on Saturday night.

“He was just enthusiastic about us having a lead on SC and

basically told us to keep it up, don’t let off the gas,” said

Dixon, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds. “I was surprised because

he is a big-time football coach.

“We knew we had to get it done.”

Darxia Morris had 16 points while Markel Walker had 15 points

and eight rebounds for UCLA (24-7), which advanced to play

top-seeded Stanford for the championship on Sunday. It will be the

Bruins second trip to the tournament finals.

The second-seeded Bruins, making their sixth appearance in the

semifinals, missed 11 free throw attempts. But Doreena Campbell

made four in the final 19.1 seconds to preserve the win.

“When you’re playing a team that knows you inside and out, we

knew it was going to be a grind,” UCLA coach Nikki Caldwell said.

“It was going to boil down to who is going to execute down the

stretch.

“I thought we played very physical, I thought we were fighters.

I didn’t feel like we gave up.”

USC scored its final basket when Heather Oliver made a 3-pointer

putting the Trojans ahead 53-51 with 4:29 left.

Ashley Corral led the third-seeded Trojans (19-12) with 15

points and Aarika Hughes added 12.

UCLA shot 42.6 percent from the field while USC made 31.7

percent of its shots.

“We got the looks we wanted,” USC coach Michael Cooper said.

“Good college teams do different things strategic wise affect the

(opponent) and they did that, but still we got some good looks

throughout the course of the game, we just couldn’t knock them

down.”

The Bruins led for most of the game until late in the second

half. USC started the second half with a 10-4 run capped by Hughes’

3-pointer to tie the game 34-34.

The Trojans took their first lead since early on when Kari

LaPlante made two free throws to put them ahead 50-49 with 5:51

remaining.

The Trojans trailed by as many as 12 in the first half. USC went

on an 8-2 run capped by Oliver’s 3-pointer before the buzzer to cut

UCLA’s lead to 30-24 at the half.

“All year long they’ve played like the No. 2 team in the

conference and they didn’t show anything less in this game,”

Cooper said. “It would have taken a perfect game for us to beat

this team tonight.”

The rivals split the regular season series with each team

winning at home.