Right off the bat, the Trojans were unable to hold onto the ball.
The Bruins, after failing to create separation early on, capitalized on their crosstown rival's constant flow of mistakes and managed to defend their home court in a winning effort.
UCLA women's basketball (8-4, 3-1 Pac-12) bested USC (9-6, 2-3) at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night by a score of 66-43, using their defense to get the better of the Trojans. The Bruins held their opponents to just 28% shooting from the field, but what stood out more was the number of possessions that didn't even end in a field goal attempt.
USC coughed the ball away 27 times, the most UCLA has forced in a game so far this season and tied for the second-most they've forced in a game over the past seven seasons. Even though the Bruins converted the Trojans' first four turnovers into a mere two points, they ended up racking up 21 points off turnovers.
In response to all of the butchered possessions, USC wound up taking plenty of contested shots to try and dig itself out of a hole, and UCLA held an opponent to under 30% shooting for the second time this season as a result. That desperation hit a high in the fourth quarter, with the Trojans already down 17 heading into the final frame, and they shot 2-of-16 from the field to close the game.
Guards Natalie Chou and Charisma Osborne had five and four steals, respectively, and both ended the night with double-digit points. Osborne also racked up six rebounds and seven assists.
But a Pac-12 play-best defensive performance was only half of the battle, as the Bruins put up their standard offensive numbers behind yet another scoring outburst by forward IImar'I Thomas.
Thomas hit the 20-point mark for the fifth time in 12 tries this season, and she did so on an efficient 9-of-14 shooting. Thomas had 15 points in the first half alone, only needing five points in the second half to post nearly double UCLA's next-leading scorer.
Starting midway through the second quarter until the final buzzer, the Bruins were up by double-figures.
It didn't matter much if the Trojans won the rebound battle by 14 boards, since the blue and gold controlled the game on both ends of the floor for nearly the entire night. UCLA's lead grew from seven points at the end of the first quarter to 13 at halftime, 17 at the end of three and 23 by the final buzzer.
All of that was despite the Bruins and coach Cori Close working with yet another shortened rotation, as guard Jaelynn Penn was missing due to a hand injury. Guard Chantel Horvat and forward Izzy Anstey were the only players available off the bench, but the latter fouled out before the end of the night.
The one-sided affair didn't quite match last year's 93-51 bludgeoning of the Trojans at Pauley Pavilion, but there was once again a considerable lack of drama in the historic rivalry matchup.
UCLA and USC will finish off their weekend home-and-home at the Galen Center on Sunday, with that game set to tip off at 6 p.m.