LAS VEGAS —
Junior MIchaela Onyenwere says on her bio page that she chose to attend UCLA because “you get the total package.”
In the Pac-12 Conference tournament quarterfinals on Friday night, the 6-foot junior was a total package for the Bruins in the third-largest come-from-behind victory in tournament history.
Onyenwere registered her 10th double-double of the season with a game-high 26 points and 15 rebounds to help No. 8 UCLA overcome a 15-point deficit in a 73-66 win over USC.
With the Bruins trailing by six after three quarters, Onyenwere scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, putting UCLA (26-4) ahead 53-52.
USC reclaimed the lead at 54-53 and later tied the game at 56-all, but the Bruins closed the game on a 17-10 run, as late fouls plagued the Trojans (17-14).
“We were not playing the way we knew we could have, sort of the whole game,” said Onyenwere, who scored 18 of UCLA’s last 29 points. “So (I was) just being aggressive for my team and doing whatever I could do help my team.”
The second-seeded Bruins advance to Saturday night’s semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of Stanford and Oregon State.
Natalie Chou was a perfect 5 for 5 from the floor and added 14 points for the Bruins. Lindsey Corsaro chipped in with 11 behind a season-high three 3-pointers.
“The tougher, more together team wins in March,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “And it took us a while to become that. But I thought Lindsey Corsaro’s poise, she was the most steady the entire game. I thought her emotional leadership was absolutely key for us sort of coming back together, rallying the troops and becoming the tougher, more together team. We weren’t that the whole 40 minutes. But she led us there and helped us respond.
“Obviously, Michaela is just tough as nails. And she continues to amaze me about how she improves, how she’s always about the team. And she’s just one of the most versatile players in the country.”
UCLA finished shooting just 37.8% (28 of 74) from the field, while USC was 25-for-60 (41.7%). But the Trojans shot a lowly 12.5% (1 of 8) from 3-point range in the second half.
Endyia Rogers led USC with 18 points. Senior Kayla Overbeck had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Pac 12 Freshman of the Year Alissa Pili and Aliyah Jeune each scored 11.
“They battled, they fought, they have improved during the year,” USC coach Mark Trakh said. “We played five freshmen, a sophomore and a senior for the last month of the season, and these kids just grew up, and they played with a lot of poise, a lot of heart.”
USC split its regular-season series with the Bruins, who outscored their opponents by 11.4 points per game during the regular season. Friday night they found themselves in another scrap with their crosstown rivals.
USC opened the game on an 11-0 run and built a 20-5 lead on the strength of a balanced offense that saw four scorers contribute from the floor early. UCLA took some time to find its rhythm and finished the first quarter shooting just 22.7% (5 of 22) from the field.
UCLA climbed back into the contest with an 18-6 run, sparked by Chou, who came off the bench to score a quick 10 points in nine minutes.
“We’re not in that position without Natalie Chou’s spark,” Close said of Chou, who finished with 16 minutes. “And then also not in that position if she doesn’t have the selflessness to see that we turned what we needed and how we were attacking, and so I went with a different kind of lineup because in the second half, and she was a selfless enough teammate to be fine with that.”
The Bruins shot 62.5% (10 of 16) in the second quarter, while limiting the Trojans to 35.7% shooting (5 of 14).
USC: The Trojans struggled to get any offensive production off the bench. Outside of Jeune, coach Mark Trakh turned to Alyson Miura, who was a mere 1 for 3 from the field after coming up with back-to-back clutch 3-pointers in Thursday’s opening round win over Colorado. Jeune and Miura were the only reserves Trakh used.
UCLA: Chou, a transfer from Baylor playing in her first season with the Bruins after sitting out last season, was pivotal as she converted a three-point play during the second-quarter run, and later followed with a pair of 3-pointers to bring the Bruins within one.
THEY SAID IT
USC: Coach Mark Trakh on his team’s potential NIT bid, “I tell the team let’s use it as a springboard like (defending NIT champion) Arizona did (last season). That’s what we intend to do. We’re going to get a few days off and get ready for it.”
UCLA: Corsaro on her season-high three 3-pointers, “It is definitely awesome to make shots. My teammates do an awesome job as well as my coaches of always instilling confidence in talking about when you’ve got it, get it up there and be confident it is going in.”
USC: Awaits a postseason bid.
UCLA: Will face the winner of Stanford-Oregon State in one Pac 12 semifinal.
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