Game Notes: UCLA at USC
Break out the broom, Trojans complete the sweep.
The Battle for Los Angeles was waged over the weekend.
Not only were bragging rights at stake for USC and UCLA when the two got together on Sunday night at the Galen Center, but all-important positioning in the Pac-10 Conference standings was on the line in the showdown pitting the cross-town rivals.
Ultimately, the Trojans prevailed, 68-64, in front of 8,836 spectators. And with the victory over the Bruins, USC swept the season series and remained a game behind first-place Cal with six more contests remaining in regular season play.
*** Fans arrived early for this one. The USC student section is packed, clad in the Trojans’ colors, Cardinal and Gold, mostly Gold though. My guess is that some how, some way, the raucous supporters are going to play some kind of roll in the outcome.
*** Michael Roll looks like he’s ready for a big game. The UCLA senior is knocking down jumper after jumper from out on the perimeter during warm-ups. If the Bruins are going to avenge their 21-point loss to USC back in mid-January, Roll is going to have be lights out from long range.
*** Dwight Lewis is feeling it. He makes a pair of baskets and adds a three-pointer to give USC a 9-7 lead at 13:41.
*** UCLA starts pounding the ball inside with some success. The frontcourt tandem of Brendan Lane and Reeves Nelson combine for six points. The Bruins, however, still trail by four points at the 10:39 mark.
*** Donte Smith comes off the bench and makes his presence felt right away. He knocks down a three-pointer, scores on a layup and converts a pair of free-throws to extend the advantage to 19-13 at the halfway mark.
*** UCLA shows some signs of life and puts together a rally. Roll buries one from way downtown. So does Malcolm Lee. A Nikola Dragovic layup gives the Bruins a one-point lead with 2:34 left before the break.
*** Lewis finishes things the way he started them. He takes the ball to the hole, strong, and scores on a reverse layup, over Nelson. USC is up once again, 30-29. Less than a minute remaining.
*** Not to be outdone, Marcus Johnson scores inside the paint just before the buzzer sounds and the Trojans head into intermission with a four-point advantage.
*** UCLA opens the second half with a sense of urgency, Tyler Honeycutt, in particular. The freshman gets open underneath the basket and throws down a two-handed dunk to tie the score, 34-34, at 16:15.
*** Roll is warming up. That’s the last thing the Trojans want to see. They don’t want Roll to get on a roll. He does anyway. At 10:24, the sharpshooter hits a jumper and connects on a pair of three-pointers to keep things close.
*** Smith answers. His three-ball from the wing at 8:32 puts a stop to the UCLA momentum and gives USC a 52-47 lead. Making matters worse, Smith rubs it in, mocking the Bruins as he runs down to the other end of the floor.
*** Nikola Vucevic has been quiet up this point for the Trojans. That is, until now. His back-to-back buckets extend the advantage to nine points with 6:10 left on the clock. The pro-USC crowd is really into this game now.
*** Lee scores four straight and Honeycutt hits one from the stripe to cut the deficit to 56-52 at 3:51. Guess the Bruins do have some fight left in them.
*** Johnson comes up with a steal and goes coast-to-coast for a dunk. Leonard Washington converts a layup. Vucevic makes two free-throws and Lewis adds one of his own. All of a sudden, USC leads 63-52 with :57 remaining.
*** Do the Trojans want to win this thing or what? For some reason, over the course of the final 20 seconds, they decide to foul Lee and Roll on consecutive three-pointers attempts, giving UCLA six free-throws down the stretch.
*** The Bruins make five freebies. But it doesn’t matter. Lewis ends up icing the game at the line with two free-throws and USC wins, 68-64.
*** Aside from Roll, who scored 21 points, UCLA didn’t shoot well. The Bruins were 24-61 from the field (39.3%) and 9-18 from the line (50%). Coach Ben Howland won’t be pleased with what he sees once he finally takes a long look at the final stats. Wouldn’t want to be in Westwood for practices this week.
*** Lewis was solid throughout, scoring game-high 23 points for the Trojans, on 8-13 shooting from the field. “He made big shots,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “He made free throws down the stretch that were critical. He did a very good job defensively. When Dwight plays like that, we have a chance.”
*** The Trojans were pumped up afterward. They won both regular season meetings for the first time since 2004. Adding insult to injury, USC has swept UCLA only six times in the last 50 years. Dragovic summed it up best, saying: “It hurts. They haven’t swept us since I’ve been here. It really hurts.”