No. 6 UCLA routs USC 102-70, snaps 4-game skid against rival
LOS ANGELES (AP) Bryce Alford, whose fresh-faced looks belie his skills as a sharpshooter, landed on his rear after a drive and snarled.
On the bench, his coach-father Steve Alford knows that look. In the stands, his mother Tanya recognized it, too.
”I like it when he snarls,” the elder Alford said. ”I wish he would snarl in warmups. When he gets that, he goes to another level toughness-wise.”
The younger Alford scored 26 points, including 10 straight in the game’s final seven minutes, and No. 6 UCLA beat Southern California 102-70 on Saturday night, snapping a four-game skid against its crosstown rival while improving to 5-0 in February.
”When I get it going for my team and I know I’m helping my team win, it’s just what happens to my face,” Alford said.
Playing their first game in six days, the Bruins (22-5, 9-5 Pac-12) avenged an 84-76 loss at USC last month to remain the league’s only unbeaten team this month. They are 14-1 at home.
”It took a home loss to Arizona and a road loss at USC to really grab guys’ attention,” Steve Alford said. ”They want to make a run not just in the conference race but in the conference tourney and postseason.”
TJ Leaf added 19 points and Thomas Welsh had 16 points and a career high-tying 16 rebounds for the Bruins, who handed USC its worst loss of the season.
”Any time you’re playing a rival like that and you’re up big at the end, it just gets fun,” Leaf said.
Especially with star freshman Lonzo Ball at the helm.
Alford’s alley-oop pass set up Ball’s dunk that had the crowd in a tizzy before Alford hit UCLA’s 10th 3-pointer for a 96-66 lead. Another dunk by Ball got the Bruins to the century mark for the ninth time this season.
”Going into March, we got to hit our strides now,” Ball said.
Bennie Boatwright had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Trojans (21-6, 8-6). They tied a season high with 14 3-pointers in last month’s win, but hit seven this time and just two in the second half of their first game in a week.
”It felt like it snowballed late,” Boatwright said. ”That’s a good word for it.”
Leaf was held to eight points on 4-of-10 shooting while in foul trouble in the Bruins’ previous loss. His shooting was on early in Saturday’s game, hitting 5 of 7 for 12 points in the first half.
The Bruins tied the game 23-all on Isaac Hamilton’s 3-pointer, one of five made during their 28-11 run to close the half and take a 46-34 lead. Ball’s 3-pointer with four seconds remaining was UCLA’s seventh of the half.
Led by Welsh, the Bruins extended their lead to 15 points to open the second half. He scored eight of their 18 points to start the half, with Leaf hitting a 3-pointer that made it 61-46.
The Trojans never got closer than nine points before the rout was on.
”It felt like we still had a chance midway through the second half but then we couldn’t get any stops,” USC guard Jordan McLaughlin said. ”Once they started making shots they’re a tough team to stop.”
Alford stretched UCLA’s lead to 81-61 on 10 straight points. He made a 3-pointer and then drove the lane, got hip-checked by Elijah Stewart to draw the foul and high-fived courtside fans before making the free throw. Alford got fouled on UCLA’s next possession, made both and scored on their next trip down the court.
”You’re not going to beat UCLA when you shoot 33 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3,” said USC coach Andy Enfield, who got a technical late in the game. ”We missed a lot of easy shots and this is a tough place to play, but we did not get stops when we needed them.”
USC: The Trojans have lost two in a row with four games left in the regular season, including at No. 5 Arizona next week.
UCLA: The Bruins’ hopes of winning the Pac-12 title remain slim with four games remaining in the regular season. They trail first-place Arizona (one loss) and second-place Oregon (two losses).
USC: Visits No. 5 Arizona on Feb. 23 in the second of three straight road games. The Trojans lost by seven points in the first meeting last month.
UCLA: Visits Arizona State on Feb. 23, a team the Bruins beat by 22 points last month.
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