Crosstown rivals meet on Thursday in Los Angeles when No. 8 UCLA visits Southern California.
The Bruins (17-3, 8-1 Pac-12) come in aiming to begin a new winning streak after their previous run of 14 straight ended on Saturday at then-No. 11 Arizona. UCLA — which had not lost since Nov. 20 — could not overcome its worst scoring performance of the season in a 58-52 defeat.
“We were just very stagnant on offense,” Jaime Jaquez Jr. said postgame.
Jaquez, UCLA’s leading scorer on the season at 16.1 points per game, finished with a combined 21 points in the Bruins’ two-game road swing at Arizona State and Arizona last week.
“We didn’t get enough movement,” he added. “Part of that was (Arizona’s) pressure defensively, trying to deny handoffs. We just have to be tougher and not let that affect us, so that’s on us.”
UCLA shot just 21 of 67 (31.3 percent) from the floor overall, including 4 of 20 (20 percent) from 3-point range, and 6 of 11 (54.5 percent) at the free-throw line. The resulting point total was well below the Bruins’ previous low this season, which had been their output in a 60-58 home win over USC on Jan. 5.
The Trojans (14-6, 6-3) rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit in their short trip to UCLA almost three weeks ago behind a stifling second-half defensive effort. USC held the Bruins to just 5-of-22 shooting (22.7 percent) from the floor after intermission, eventually taking the lead with 32 seconds remaining before surrendering a Jaylen Clark 3-pointer that sealed the win for UCLA.
The first encounter with the Bruins marked the second loss in a two-game conference skid for USC. An 81-66 loss at Arizona on Thursday relegated the Trojans to the Pac-12’s four-team logjam sitting two games behind UCLA in the loss column.
USC pulled Arizona State into that bottleneck on Saturday, blitzing the Sun Devils en route to a lead of as many as 24 points in the second half before going cold down the stretch. The Trojans went the final 4 1/2 minutes without scoring a point in their 77-69 win.
“The last four minutes was embarrassing, quite honestly,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “But the first 36 minutes, we played great basketball in a tough place to play against a very good team.”
Drew Peterson’s 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots set the pace for USC in the win, while Boogie Ellis connected on four 3-pointers en route to 18 points. The veteran backcourt duo combined for just 19 points in the previous meeting with UCLA.
The Trojans also got 12 points and five rebounds in just 14 minutes on Saturday from Vincent Iwuchukwu, the 7-foot-1 freshman who suffered cardiac arrest in the summer.
Iwuchukwu joined the rotation on Jan. 12, playing limited minutes against Colorado and Utah before logging 15 and 14 minutes on the Arizona road trip. He adds interior length to go with 6-foot-11 Joshua Morgan, the Pac-12’s leading shot-blocker at 2.6 per game.
UCLA counters with 6-foot-10 Adem Bona, who is averaging 1.5 blocks per game.
The Bruins lead the Pac-12 with an average of 8.8 steals per game, while USC is third at 7.5 steals per contest. Clark leads the conference with 2.7 takeaways per game.
–Field Level Media