USC women’s basketball loses late lead to UCLA, as growing pains underscore difficulty of winning

The USC Trojans women’s basketball team is learning about the small margins between excellence and second-tier status. It’s true that no one expected USC to reach the top tier of the Pac-12 this season, and to be sure, USC’s program is definitely on the right track under head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. Yet, a positive long-term outlook doesn’t offer complete consolation for this season’s team and this season’s group of players. They really wanted to beat the UCLA Bruins, an established program under head coach Cori Close. They had a 12-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

They lost by one point. That stings, and it should. Optimism about the future shouldn’t erase the pain of this particular game. It was right there for the taking. The Women of Troy played so well for three quarters.

In their first game against UCLA this season, they held the Bruins to four points in the fourth quarter and lost by three, falling just short in a failed comeback attempt. This time, USC lost a lead and enabled UCLA to complete a comeback.

UCLA — having beaten USC 59-56 in the first meeting — rallied from a 52-40 deficit to claim a 61-60 win in the rematch on Sunday. The Bruins, who barely scored in the fourth quarter in the first meeting, posted 21 points in the fourth quarter of this game.

USC competed extremely well in two games against an NCAA Tournament-level team, but all the Trojans have to show for it is two losses by a combined four points.

When USC brings in top-tier recruits for next season and beyond, the contours of this rivalry — like USC’s overall standing within the Pac-12 — should change in ways which help the Trojans. In the present moment, however, all USC can point to is a moral victory. The Trojans are getting a first-class education in the difference between a moral victory and a scoreboard triumph. Becoming a winner means translating these almosts into actualized conquests. It will be fascinating to see how Gottlieb brings this team along in the coming weeks.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire