Game Day: UCLA and USC women’s basketball shoot for better

Editor’s note: This is the Wednesday, Aug. 10 edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. The women’s college basketball season opened this week with the teams at the top looking as fierce as ever. Can a team from Southern California join their ranks?

Let’s discuss after a glance at the news.

The Kings needed a shutout by Jonathan Quick to win their second in a row.
The Dodgers began the winter GM meetings by updating their thinking about Justin Turner’s future.
USC is up to No. 8 but UCLA remained No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Injuries present questions for both the Trojans and the Bruins this week.
And check here to follow where Southern California high school athletes are going on Fall Signing Day.

Monday night, UCLA’s women started their season with an 84-48 victory over Cal Poly at Pauley Pavilion as senior guard Charisma Osborne had 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Last night, USC opened with an 86-41 win over Cal State Bakersfield at the Galen Center with new Trojans Okako Adika, Destiny Littleton and Kadi Sissoko among five in double figures.

Those were like some of the extremely one-sided scores put up in early-season games by the top women’s teams, such as the 70-point win by defending national champion and top-ranked South Carolina on Monday, and 42- and 35-point wins by No. 17 Arizona and No. 21 Oregon of the Pac-12.

Do the Bruins and Trojans merit comparisons to the top teams?

As in the Southern California men’s college basketball scene we talked about here yesterday, the women’s game around here is more than the two big Pac-12 schools. UC Irvine, second in the Big West last season, tipped off with a 55-point win over Whittier, and Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton of that conference open on the road tomorrow. Opening night was rougher for UC Riverside and CSUN of the Big West, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference and Cal Baptist of the Western Athletic Conference.

But right now the region’s hope for national impact depends on UCLA and USC, the schools whose standards are set by long-ago national titles (Bruins in 1978, Trojans in 1983 and 1984).

Both were among “others receiving votes,” and neither has to crane its neck too uncomfortably to see the top 25 in the preseason AP rankings.

Haley Sawyer, who follows women’s basketball for the Southern California News Group papers, wrote about the Bruins and Trojans and saw reasons to expect jumps up this season.

UCLA has a recruiting class ranked No. 1 in the nation and seems certain to be healthier after going 18-13, 8-8 in the Pac-12 in a season that ended in the WNIT semifinals. Seventh last season, the Bruins are picked to move up to fourth in the conference coaches’ poll. They can get to the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in the past seven (non-pandemic) seasons under coach Cori Close.

Sawyer writes that UCLA lost its second, third and fourth leading scorers after Osborne (16.4 points a game), but has national No. 2 recruit Kiki Rice as well as top-50 recruits Gabriela Jaquez (sister of the men’s team’s Jaime Jaquez), Londynn Jones and Christeen Iwuala.

USC has farther to go after finishing 12-16, 5-12 in the Pac-12. Tenth last season, the Trojans are picked ninth by the coaches. But it’s a very different roster this year, offering hope for a program that has reached the NCAA tournament once since 2006.

Coach Lindsay Gottlieb, the former Cal Final Four coach and Cleveland Cavaliers assistant, is missing the start of her second season at USC while on maternity leave. But the Trojans have a more than able interim coach in assistant Beth Burns, whose success as a head coach includes seven NCAA tournament appearances with San Diego State.

The Trojans lost their top scorer, who transferred, but have eight new faces.

“They always, like, bring up how we finished last year, and I just forget because it was just so, like, below .500 that we just kind of tried to forget about last year,” senior Alyson Miura told Sawyer. “And honestly, Lindsey always says we’re not referencing last year, and rightfully so. We’re such a different team.”

If USC and UCLA are referencing anything, it should be their own high historical standards and the teams above them in the top 25.

That’s a lot to shoot for, but it’s within range.


Lakers face the Clippers in a Clippers home game at Arena (7 p.m., ESPN, SPSN, BSSC). Read a Lakers update and a Clippers update.
Ducks host the Wild (7 p.m., TNT, BSW), which was in action last night in a loss to the Kings. See Ducks news.


Are the College Football Playoff rankings correct to have USC at No. 8 and UCLA at No. 12? Is one school or both underrated or overrated? Respond by email ( or on Twitter (@KevinModesti).


Maybe UCLA football remains at No. 12 in the College Football Playoff Top 25 … because of the nonconference schedule and the NOT blowing out Arizona State?


— James H. Williams covers UCLA football (@JHWreporter) November 9, 2022

– James H. Williams (@JHWreporter) after the new rankings were announced yesterday.

1,000 WORDS

Split the difference: Kings forward Anze Kopitar has a shot stopped by Minnesota Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury as Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek (14) watches in the second period last night at Arena. Photo is by Harry How for Getty Images.


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