UCLA beats USC 83-66 for 4th straight win over Trojans
LOS ANGELES (AP) After stumbling through a five-game skid over the end of last year and start of the new year, UCLA had a goal of winning three games in nine days.
Bryce Alford ran into the locker room and scribbled ”mission complete” after the Bruins used a 26-6 run over both halves to put away Southern California 83-66 Wednesday night.
”It feels good to finally do that,” said Alford, who scored 21 points.
Norman Powell scored 22 points and finished his career with a 4-0 record against USC in its building, becoming the first Bruin since Toby Bailey from 1995-98 to do so.
”I couldn’t ask for a better ending,” UCLA’s lone senior said.
Tony Parker added 14 points and Kevon Looney had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bruins (11-7, 3-2 Pac-12), who won their fourth straight over their crosstown rival. They improved to 1-3 in true road games.
”We finally went to the road with a little bit of our swagger back,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. ”We’ve seen our defense improve and our offense has been coming.”
The Bruins dominated the boards, 41-20, and owned a 46-30 edge in the paint, helped by the 6-foot-9 duo of Parker (seven rebounds) and Looney.
”This team really grew,” Powell said. ”We were executing in the second half and getting what we wanted.”
Nikola Jovanovic scored 20 points for the Trojans (9-8, 1-4), who have lost five of their last eight. Last season, they won just one Pac-12 game under new coach Andy Enfield. Darion Clark added 11 points.
”We just got to be tougher. Simple as that,” Clark said. ”They outplayed us. They out-toughed us on the boards. We got punked.”
Alford had his best game in a month, having struggled offensively since scoring 23 points in a loss against ranked Gonzaga. The sophomore guard came in shooting 20 percent in league play, but he hit 5 of 8 3-pointers.
”I really had the confidence every one was going in,” Alford said. ”It’s been a while, probably the best I have felt.”
USC kept it close for much of the first half, briefly taking a three-point lead with 2 1/2 minutes to go. UCLA had already launched its game-changing run, though, outscoring the Trojans 11-4 to close the half ahead 36-31.
The Bruins picked up where they left off, finishing off the 26-6 outburst over the first five minutes of the second half for a 51-33 lead. Alford hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Looney dunked before Alford’s fastbreak layup closed it out.
”We had that lead near the end of the first half and they really played exceptional basketball after that,” Enfield said. ”We probably let them too close to the basket but a lot of the shots were contested and they made them. They have a lot of guys on their team that could create their own shot and we knew they were dangerous.”
The Trojans cut their deficit to 61-52 on six straight points, capped by Jordan McLaughlin’s steal and dunk.
UCLA kept the pressure on with a 12-3 spurt to regain the 18-point lead they owned early in the half. Powell scored six points in the spurt. The Bruins improved to 7-2 at Galen Center since the Trojans’ arena opened in 2006.
”We’ve been pretty inconsistent starting the second half this whole season,” Clark said. ”As a team we kind of lose focus. If you lose focus the other team can go on a run and before you know it it’s a 20-point game.”
The Bruins shot 50 percent in the first half, when they led 36-31 at the break and owned a 24-10 rebound edge
USC: Rapper Iggy Azalea and boyfriend Nick Young, who starred at USC and now plays for the Lakers, goofed for the kiss cam. … Bob Boyd, who had a 216-131 record as coach from 1967-79, died Wednesday at 84. He had planned to attend the game, where there was a moment of silence for him. … The Trojans came in averaging 72.1 points in their last nine games.
UCLA: Looney, the Pac-12 player of the week, is the nation’s only freshman averaging a double-double. He recorded his ninth of the season. … Nobody was in double figures in the first half. … Their fans shouted ”Just like football!” in the closing minutes, having beaten the Trojans in that sport last fall.
Looney and 7-foot center Thomas Welsh were newcomers to the rivalry, although Welsh heard plenty about it while growing up in Redondo Beach. Welsh finished with eight points on 4 of 5 shooting and four rebounds in his best game since a 12-point effort against UAB on Nov. 28.
”I started to hold the follow through on my shot,” he said. ”It’s definitely great to get this win.”
Looney grew up in Milwaukee, but he’s quickly picked up on the importance of beating the Trojans.
”I felt the energy,” he said.
TIME TO REGROUP
The Trojans have eight days until their next Pac-12 game on the road and Jovanovic believes they need every minute.
”As a team we didn’t do a good job boxing out or squeezing the ball with our hands,” he said. ”I tried to do my best but everyone needs to contribute. That’s why we lost. We need to put our things together. We have eight days until our next game and we need to get in the gym and get better.”
USC: At Oregon on Jan. 22.
UCLA: At Oregon State on Jan. 22.