Slumping Bruins fall to Trojans in OT

LOS ANGELES –The game of basketball has its ebbs and flows, its highs and lows, its ups and downs.

Wednesday night was definitely a down for UCLA. Reggie Miller became the ninth Bruin to have his jersey retired and the Bruins broke out their brand new all-blue uniforms, but that wasn’t enough to stop them from losing consecutive games for the first time this season, falling 75-71 to USC (9-13, 4-5 Pac-12) in overtime in front of 12,821 at new Pauley Pavilion.

Shabazz Muhammad (flu) and Travis Wear (concussion) were both questionable entering Wednesday night. Both were in the starting lineup. Muhammad, who received two liters of intravenous fluid before the game, finished with a game high 22 points, but he shot 38 percent from the field, which coincidentally enough, was what the Bruins shot as a team against USC.

From three, they were worse. UCLA (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12) was a horrific 2-of-19 from three point range, 10.5 percent. 

The three point line has not been a friend of the Bruins recently. Wednesday just added to their woes. UCLA is now shooting 21 percent from beyond the arc in their last four games.

“We missed a lot of open jump shots,” Howland said. “We’ve got to be able to knock down some of those misses that aren’t going for us.”

Added Larry Drew II:  “It’s gotta be a shooting slump. Guys have been missing shots that usually they’ve been hitting … obviously it’s affecting our game. We’re athletes. We just have to overcome that.”

They must also overcome their defensive woes and rebounding woes which were present once again against USC, leaving Howland to look deep within for answers.

“We have to do some soul searching,” Howland said.

Not only is it the second consecutive loss for the Bruins, it’s their third loss in the last four games. It’s also the second straight home loss at new Pauley Pavilion as they’re steering themselves further and further away from a Pac-12 championship.

“It really comes down to us doing a better job of blocking out,” Howland said. “We got to get back to just basic shell drill and doing tough things defensively and rotating.” 

UCLA lost the rebounding battle 44-36. They allowed USC to turn 12 offensive rebounds into 14 second chance points and gave up 42 points in the paint. If there was a bright spot, the Bruins head coach was pleased with the fight his team showed to get back into the game and force overtime.

UCLA trailed by 15 points with 13:24 left in the second half.

When USC guard Jio Fontan left the game with just under 10 minutes to play after picking up his fourth personal foul that provided an opportunity for the Bruins to make a run. The trailed 57-46 at the time but cut the deficit to five points by the time Fontan re-entered the game at the 6:01 mark.

The Bruins closed the second half on a 9-2 run capped by a Jordan Adams jumper in the short corner to tie the game, 65-65, with 30 seconds remaining.

In overtime, Muhammad, who made both of the Bruins three point shots on Wednesday, sank a three pointer to give UCLA a 71-70 lead with two minutes remaining. It would be their last points of the game.

Byron Wesley knocked down a jumper on the Trojans ensuing possession and they never looked back.

“It’s very, very disappointing that we lost here on our home court,” Drew II said. “(We) brought out the whole all-blue everything jerseys looking fly, but it don’t mean nothing if you don’t go out there and win.

 “This is not acceptable.”

With this being their only game of the week, the Bruins will have a lot of time to re-evaluate their current state and a lot of practice to do so.

“We just need to practice,” Wear said. “We need to go at each other. Go at each other’s throats. That’s how we’re going to get better (and) turn things around.”