No. 6 UCLA seeks payback vs. USC (Feb 18, 2017)
UCLA will have an opportunity to avenge an earlier loss when the sixth-ranked Bruins host rival USC in a Pac-12 Conference game on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.
UCLA (23-3, 10-3 Pac-12) has won four in a row since suffering back-to-back losses to Arizona and USC. The Bruins are two games behind No. 5 Arizona and one game behind No. 7 Oregon in the conference standings.
USC (21-5, 8-5) is fifth in the Pac-12. The Trojans had won five in a row and six of seven before losing to Oregon last weekend.
UCLA is coming off a big week, edging Oregon 82-79 and beating Oregon State 78-60. Oregon beat the Bruins 89-87 after Dillon Brooks buried a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining Dec. 28 in Eugene, Ore., but this time the Bruins rallied from a 19-point deficit to defeat the Ducks.
"To get a win this way, I'm just so proud of my team," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "We've talked about trust all year and we just continue to trust our guys."
UCLA looked like it might be vulnerable to a big letdown two days later against a lesser Oregon State squad. The Bruins were clinging to a 32-27 lead at the break before pulling away to win by 18.
"We made some adjustments at halftime, especially going with the press to start the half," Alford said. "We are not a pressing team, but we thought that it would generate a little higher tempo than what they wanted to play at, and I thought it got our guys going."
Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second time this season. Ball averaged 18.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and five assists in the two wins.
"I just take what the game gives me," Ball said. "(At) the beginning of the season, people were playing me for the drive, so the passing lanes were open. Now, they're playing the passing lanes a little bit more and it's opened up the lane for me."
USC is trying to rebound from last weekend's 81-70 loss to Oregon. The Trojans led 50-46 with 12 minutes remaining, but the Ducks mounted a 22-8 run to take control. The Trojans shot just 37.3 percent and committed 16 turnovers.
"That was a tough game," USC coach Andy Enfield said. "We played hard, but not well enough to win. Our guards were off tonight in their decision making and shooting. To beat a top-five team in the country, you have to play better."
USC beat UCLA 84-76 last month at the Galen Center. Guard Shaqquan Aaron came off the bench to score 23 points for the Trojans, who shot just 40.3 percent from the field but made 14 of 34 from 3-point range.
The Bruins shot 48.4 percent in that contest, but they made just 6 of 20 from beyond the arc and committed 17 turnovers. Guard Isaac Hamilton had a team-high 20 points.