Rivalry games always carry a little extra weight.And when that rival is 18-2, ranked No. 9 in the country and you have struggled of late, the game takes on even more significance.That’s the situation facing the USC women’s basketball team, which split a pair of home games last week to remain in a tie for third place in the Pac-10 conference.Extra support · USC is counting on freshman forward Cassie Harberts, among others, to play well in the second matchup against the Bruins. – Tim Tran | Daily Trojan Now the Women of Troy (13-7, 5-4) host UCLA on Sunday in a game critical for conference positioning.“UCLA is going to be a really important game for us to go into the rest of the season,” said freshman forward Cassie Harberts. “In most of [our losses] we beat ourselves which is why we’ve been stumbling a bit.”In the first meeting between the two teams, UCLA’s suffocating defense held the Women of Troy to just 28 percent shooting.Not only did USC struggle to score, but it also committed 20 turnovers in the 61-42 loss at Pauley Pavilion.The Bruins (18-2, 8-1) held leading scorer junior guard Briana Gilbreath without a field goal in a dominating performance that USC players described as a learning experience.“We watched film [of that game], and we weren’t penetrating,” said senior center Kari LaPlante. “We need to stop settling for jump shots and get to the basket.”That task is easier said than done against the athletic Bruins team, which has been defined by its defense.LaPlante said success would ultimately come down to execution.“We just need to slow it down,” she said. “When we get going too fast is when their athleticism helps them. We need to take our time and execute.”As strong as they are defensively, the Bruins can put up points too.Senior guard Darxia Morris and junior forward Jasmine Dixon lead the team in scoring with 12.5 and 12.1 points, respectively.The most dangerous player for UCLA might be sophomore guard/forward Markel Walker, whose size and ball handling ability causes consistent problems for opposing defenses.“[Walker] is really versatile,” Harberts said. “She can play inside or out, but we have a lot of players that can match up with her.”Not to be outdone, USC also boasts one of the more versatile players in the country in Gilbreath.The do-everything junior guard finished with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and a career-high eight steals last weekend against Arizona State.The Women of Troy will need that kind of production from all their players if they want to split the season series with their crosstown rivals.“We didn’t do too well the first time around so we’ve been preparing this week and we’re going to come out strong,” LaPlante said.Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at the Galen Center._______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Here are some thoughts from USC coaches Michael Cooper and Mary Wooley after Friday’s practice.