Photo by Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
USC Basketball

USC travels across town to take on UCLA in Westwood

February 26, 2019

LOS ANGELES - When USC (15-13, 8-7) and UCLA (15-13, 8-7) collide at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night, they’ll have much more than just bragging rights to play for. The rival schools are currently tied for 5th place in the Pac-12 with 8 conference wins and 15-13 overall records.

It’s been a season filled with turmoil and drama for the Trojans and the Bruins. After getting off to a 7-6 start that featured blowout losses to North Carolina and Michigan State, UCLA head coach Steve Alford was relieved of his duties in December. The team then promoted assistant coach Murry Bartow, but the move has shown little benefit.

For the Trojans, injuries and suspensions hampered them early on. Jordan Usher transferred to Georgia Tech after being suspended indefinitely and Kevin Porter Jr. was suspended for a few games right after coming back from an injury. They’ve also been without former McDonald’s All-American Charles O’Bannon Jr. for the majority of the year.

However, in late February, there simply isn’t anymore time for excuses. With only three regular season game left on the schedule for these crosstown rivals, both have no margin of error if they want a bye in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.

In USC’s 80-67 blowout win over UCLA in January, the frontcourt of Nick Rakocevic and Bennie Boatwright dominated freshman Moses Brown. Rakocevic and Boatwright combined for 42 points and 19 rebounds while the talented, but inexperienced Brown finished with just 2 points and 7 rebounds.

Additionally, USC played to their strengths exceptionally well on offense that day. The Trojans, who lead the Pac-12 in assists per game, set a season high with 26 against UCLA. Senior Shaqquan Aaron led the way with 7 dimes, and the starting backcourt of Derryck Thornton and Jonah Mathews who combined for 11. The contagious ball movement paid off especially in the second half. USC shot 53% and made 7 three pointers in the second period alone.

Defensively, Andy Enfield’s unit made the Bruins uncomfortable all night. They forced starting point guard Jaylen Hands into 6 turnovers and UCLA shot just 5-for-22 (22%) from beyond the arc and 40% from the field.

This game will be televised on ESPN at 6:00 on Thursday, Feb. 28.

Tags: Basketball
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