Is Los Angeles the mecca for women’s hoops?

The recent Battle of LA revealed the thriving basketball scene in Los Angeles, featuring the second clash between UCLA and USC in less than a month. In the first match up at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA, led by sophomore guard Londynn Jones with 21 points and 7 rebounds, posed a formidable challenge for the then #6 ranked Trojans, securing a 71-64 victory and ending USC's 10-0 unbeaten record, while elevating UCLA to 12-0. New addition Lauren Betts, a transfer via the portal, showcased her prowess as one of the country's top centers.

JuJu Watkins
(Photo: Shawn Mclurkin)

Fast forward to January 14th and the highly anticipated rematch at Galen Center where UCLA, still ranked #2, boasted an impressive 14-0 record and the #9 ranked USC stood at 12-1, their only loss coming from the Bruins. Despite a late scratch to the Trojans' lineup with Riyah Marshall (illness), USC displayed unwavering determination. Electric freshman guard Juju Watkins and the Trojans' defense, fueled by their previous loss, held the Bruins to 65 points and nearly out-rebounded them (34-33). Watkins gave her all, finishing with 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists, solidifying her front-runner status for Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. The Bruins struggled throughout the game, facing foul troubles and resulting in three starters exiting the game early. USC triumphed, ending UCLA's unbeaten record with a 73-65 victory and marking the first time in four years that USC defeated UCLA.

The rivalry's intensity is fueled by passionate fans, breaking attendance records for both teams. UCLA broke records with 13,659 attendees on December 30th, while USC surpassed there record with 10,657 in attendance during the recent game.

Recruiting is deep

Gabriela Jaquez
(Photo: Shawn Mclurkin)

Recruiting plays a crucial role in the competitiveness of this match-up and the game is in good hands. Both teams have players who consistently produce on the court and showcase exciting and tough abilities in clutch moments.

UCLA had the number 1 recruiting classes in 2022: Kiki Rice (Hoopgurlz No.2), Gabriela Jaquez (Hoopgurlz No. 19), Londynn Jones (Hoopgurlz No.22), Christeen Iwuala (Hoopgurlz No.49 ) all while adding transfer Lauren Betts this season who was the number 1 player in the class of 22. UCLA will bring in another top 5 recruiting class in 2024: Kendall Dudley (Hoopgurlz No.14) Avary Cain (Hoopgurlz No.24), Zania Socka-Ngueman (Hoopgurlz No. 27) and Elina Aarnisalo (Hoopgurlz NR).

USC has been working as well, securing the top player in the class of '23, Juju Watkins (Hoopgurls No. 1), as well adding another top guard, Malia Samuels (Hoopgurlz no.49). Since Lindsay Gottlieb's hiring in 2021, the rebuilding has seen a top recruit each year.

2024 will bring in arguably USC’s top class in Coach Gottlieb's tenure: Kennedy Smith (Hoopgurlz No. 6), Avery Howell (Hoopgurlz no.23), Kayleigh Hackell (Hoopgurlz no.28), Vivian Iwuchukwu (Hoopgurlz no.47), Rian Fosetler (Hoopgurlz no.53), Laura Williams (Hoopgurlz no.89).

The future of the Battle of LA

Get your popcorn ready! The cross town rivals finish 1-1 in their 2023-24 regular season matchups and both teams being ranked in the top 10 could be the start to a show down that may lead to more spectacular games. Both teams will be moving to the Big10 come fall 2024, but be on the look out for these two schools the rest of this season as we may even get to see a Pac12 tournament showdown out of them. Who knows! My only suggestion is when these two teams do match up buy your tickets early and continue to tune in!


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