UCLA hoops tops USC by 10

When UCLA and USC first met on Jan. 15 at the Galen Center, it was not a fair fight, an elephant versus a butterfly.

The Bruins held the Trojans to 24-percent shooting in the first half while building an almost-double-digit halftime lead on their way to a 19-point win, the team’s third straight at the time.
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This time around, the butterfly fought back.

UCLA similarly steamrolled USC early on Thursday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, but the Trojans made a game of it, eventually succumbing to the Bruins, 64-54, in front of 9,064.

“Every time we seemed like we had a commanding lead, they scratched and fought tooth and nail,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “You have to give them credit to them as a team, with everything they’ve gone through, all the injuries, for continuing to fight.”

The Bruins simply outsprinted USC early in the matchup, exploiting Trojan turnovers in the opening minutes to build a sizeable advantage, similar to the two teams’ first matchup.
Thursday was not much different for the first 20 minutes: UCLA shot 52 percent, held USC to 24.1 percent shooting, and the Bruins went up by 15 at the half with three players – senior guard Lazeric Jones and sophomore forwards David and Travis Wear – scoring at least six points.

“It’s USC, so we really come out with that extra motivation,” David Wear said. “We were focused. We had a couple good days of practice and we knew what they were going to do. We were quick to the rotation and we really helped each other.”
Much of the second half went UCLA’s, as well, as the Bruins built a 23-point lead midway through the second half. USC chipped away down the stretch as UCLA committed egregious turnovers, but the Trojans could get no closer than nine.
With the Wears maintaining a big size advantage, the Bruins were able to fend them off.

The Double-Doublemint Twins combined for 30 points and 24 rebounds, with David Wear pacing both teams with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Jerime Anderson added 14 points and five assists and five rebounds.

“I watched film against Cal where they both played subpar,” Howland said. “Looking at them Monday and Tuesday in practice, they were very motivated. They really felt hurt about not playing to our capabilities. They came out with a great sense of purpose.”
Added David Wear: “I was really disappointed after the Cal game. That was a tough loss. I only had one rebound that game, and that’s unacceptable. I really used that as motivation. I knew in order to turn it around I would have to play harder and come with a different mindset.”

Against an injury-depleted USC squad, Howland refused to call off the dogs, even as UCLA’s lead grew. With 10 minutes left in the game and the Bruins up 51-30, the team’s starters had played all but 22 minutes, and UCLA went with just a seven-man rotation.

“A little bit was fatigue, a little bit it was us not staying as intense as we should have,” Anderson said. “Kind of just going with the flow of the game and not forcing the issue.”

With the Sports Arena just minutes from the USC campus, Howland was nervous that the Sports Arena crowd would be split, but UCLA fans came out in force, even before the game.

“Our players were excited about the student body being here before the game,” Howland said. “I know they were enthused about that. It was important for us. We needed to do that.”

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Worth a look

UCLA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote, executive produced and narrated an upcoming Showtime documentary and the trailer is pretty awesome. Check it out.

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UCLA hoops notes

On playing USC:
“Bottom line is if USC beats us tomorrow, that will really be a feather in their cap with everything they’ve gone through. We have to go out and play really hard. Just like the first time we played them, it’s like you throw out all the records.

* Sophomore center Anthony Stover practiced an hour on Sunday and is expected to play against USC.

On scheduling the St. John’s game:
* We did that because I thought it was good exposure for our program; two biggest media markets in our country. CBS, in the garden. It does make it more difficult than an other game.

On the Cal loss:
* We really hurt ourselves during the stretch – we were up 13-8 and got down 23-17, so it was a 15-4 run where we had four turnovers that were all not good plays on our end. Guys trying to do things that aren’t within the framework of the offensive end.”

On what Stover brings:
“Just a shot blocker and a good defender. When we’re plugging screens, that hurt us. Our plugs were not great, they were late and coming right at us.”

On Josh Smith:
“He got tired – Josh missed a key defensive play early in the second half where they got a little pick and roll because he didn’t see the ball, and i think part of that was he was a little winded.”

On Jerime Anderson’s late-game turnovers:
“Some of it may have been fatigue for him. He played 35 minutes I think – he had no turnovers int he first half and then he had three and it could’ve been four. We watched the edits as a team and spent an hour on film trying to learn and carry it over.”

On Maurice Jones’ 38 minutes per game:
“It says a lot about him that he’s able to do that. he’s doing it out of necessity because of guys who’ve been injured, but they’ve been doing that with him since early.”

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Weekly Q&A

Fire away with questions for this week’s Q&A. Please don’t post new questions on the answers section, because I don’t always check the comments. Save them for next week.

Thanks
Jon

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Cal cruises past UCLA 73-63

Perhaps the finest illustration of the kind of afternoon UCLA had on Saturday afternoon against Cal: Middway through the second half, Bears senior guard Jorge Gutierrez missed a shot, backup forward Roberth Thurman grabbed the rebound, missed the ship shot, grabbed the rebound and awkwardly laid the ball in the hoop while drawing a foul and falling to the floor.

The basket capped off a brilliant start for Cal to start the second half and the Bears snapped UCLA’s 12-game conference home winning streak with a 73-64 win in front of 9,001 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

When the two teams met on New Year’s Eve, Cal sprinted away from the Bruins with a 24-6 run to open the second half and eventually whisked UCLA away with a 16-point victory.

Call this Deja Blue.

After Bruins point guard Jerime Anderson hit a 3-pointer just before halftime to cut the Bears’ lead to 32-26, UCLA was feeling pretty good heading into the locker room. Two quick Cal baskets, and the Bruins started to reel. The Bears eventually got off to a 23-13 run to start the second half and kept UCLA at a comfortable distance for much of the duration.

“They just went on that run and it was tough,” sophomore forward David Wear said. “At halftime we’d talked about coming out strong and not letting them jump out on us like they did last time.”

The only thing time this time around, the Bruins showed a little moxie in clawing their way back. After falling behind by as much as 17 midway through the half, UCLA went on a run to make it a seven-point game with 3:15 left.

But just as the Bruins had to hurry to catch up, it was that speed that cut their comeback short. Anderson had two crucial turnovers down the stretch and Cal responded to every one of UCLA’s late charges.

“We had some turnovers at the end and they capitalized on them,” senior guard Lazeric Jones said. “That was pretty much it. We got it real close but we have to keep our composure.”

The last time the Bears swept the season series with UCLA, Jason Kidd ran the point to near-perfection. Flash forward 18 years, and Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs are handling the position with efficiency. The two combined for 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, with Cobbs leading both teams with 18 points.

Working well off of screens, Cal guards typically found themselves with a little extra cushion, and they made the Bruins pay.

“They were really running the pick-and-roll really well,” Jones said. “It seemed like the play they were trying to go to. When you’re on a roll like that, momentum is on their side.”

While the Bears were dishing and dancing and diving, UCLA failed to register even one assist in the first half. The Bruins shot 34.5 percent in the first half, missing a number of chip shots, and shot 1-for-7 from 3-point range.

“What really hurt us, the first half we had a lot of open jump shots we missed,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “Easy shots, layups we missed. Both of their big guys were in foul trouble and they were playing with two backups and we couldn’t exploit that well enough. We had some open looks on some passes we just missed.”

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UCLA trails Cal 32-26 at the half

UCLA started off well against Cal on Saturday afternoon at the LA Sports Arena because Joshua Smith started off well. And he didn’t even start.

Smith entered the game less than two minutes in and scored two quick baskets as the Bruins controlled the tempo early.

The Bears, though, took hold of the pace and the game and went into halftime up 32-26.

Jorge Gutierrez was Cal’s every-man, scoring 10 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing four assists as Cal went on a late 9-4 run before Joshua Smith delivered a massive screen to free Jerime Anderson for a half-ending 3-pointer.

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