Lazeric Jones insists he was just trying to show some love to his family.
He maintains that the kiss he blew the Galen Center crowd after his second consecutive basket late in the first half of the Bruins’ 66-47 win over USC on Sunday night was all love. No hate.
The glint his eyes said something different. The sneaky smile that crept on his face confirmed it.
“I feel like I’m part of the rivalry now,” said Jones, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. “Every time we scored I got really excited. … That’s how it’s going to be. That’s how it’s always going to be. I was watching games a week ago, previous games (in the rivalry), and they were chippy then. Who am I to break the rivalry?”
If Jones provided the flash in the Bruins’ blowout win, the Wear twins provided the dirty.
Sophomore forward Travis Wear had 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and brother David Wear added 13 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes as he battled foul trouble.
Even with UCLA center Joshua Smith limited to just six points and five rebounds in 14 minutes, the Bruins had 30 points in the paint and 12 second-chance points and made up for 14 turnovers.
“It’s our execution,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “We’re getting better at getting the reads and the second and third options off of our sets. We’re still not executing as well as we’d like, but we’re moving definitely in the right direction. That’s huge for us.”
So was Anthony Stover.
The Bruins backup center had three blocks and three rebounds but altered several shots and was an active presence in man-to-man defense, which the team has relied heavily upon during its three-game winning streak, which followed back-to-back losses to Stanford and Cal to open Pac-12 play.
“Stover’s minutes in the first half, where he was changing shots, blocking shots – defensively was a huge boost,” Howland said. “Stover has really played well for us. He played very well for us against Arizona and had key minutes for us against ASU.”
A year after USC’s interior duo of Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson dominated the UCLA post with a combined 33 points and 20 rebounds in a 63-52 victory, their absence was striking, as the Bruins outrebounded the Trojans, 44-19. Last season’s game ended with Smith making an obscene gesture to the crowd and criticizing the referees in his post-game interview, actions that led to a reprimand from the Pac-10.
This year ended a bit differently.
“It felt great,” Smith said. “Zeek and (senior guard Jerime Anderson) reminded the team before we went out about what happened last year. We have a lot of new guys on the team – the twins weren’t playing with us last year, Norman Powell wasn’t with us yet – and we came out and said, ‘It’s us against the world out here; they embarrassed us last year, now let’s go put it on them.”
Added USC guard Alexis Moore: “We embarrassed ourselves. We did a disservice in our effort. Give UCLA credit; they played a great game, we didn’t match their effort.”
It took a while to begin, but the Bruins built their momentum.
The teams sputtered to a horrendous start, managing just a 9-9 tie with less than 10 minutes left in the first half. UCLA took off from there, however, with a 14-1 run over the next six minutes. By the time Jones puckered up for the crowd, the Bruins were up 35-16 and well on their way to their biggest win at USC since 1999.
“I was just giving my family a little love!” Jones said. “My parents have been on me about showing love to them when I’m on TV, so that’s all I was doing. It was all love!”
There’s that smile again.