UCLA beats USC in a laugher, 55-40

The first half of the UCLA-USC matchup in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament was so bad, so laughably bad, that it’s a surprise the teams mustered the courage to emerge from the locker rooms after halftime.

And with the Staples Center about as full as a sumo wrestler after a rice cake, each chuckle coming from the sparse audience was heard loud and clear.

Eventually UCLA cleaned it up, overcame an early eight-point deficit and cruised to a 55-40 win over the Trojans to advance to a 2:30 p.m. matchup today in the second round against Arizona.

“I didn’t think that we were starting to panic,” senior guard Lazeric Jones said. “Obviously you get a little rattled sometimes when things aren’t going your way. But I felt like we calmed down eventually. We started to take better shots and move the ball around better. But I mean, it happens. Basketball is a game of runs. They had theirs and luckily we had ours in the second half.”

The Bruins may not have been panicking, but the handful of fans in the crowd might have once they realized their tickets were non-refundable.

The Los Angeles rivals had not scored almost three minutes in, combined to make just 5-of-29 attempts to start the game and managed a combined 19 points in the game’s first 11:58. USC took control by way of the offensive inadequacies, settling down to grab a 21-13 lead.

The Bruins, though, responded by tightening up defensively and holding the Trojans scoreless for the last 3:58 of the half to take a 22-21 lead into the break.

“Obviously the first 10, 12 minutes of the first half we were really a step slow, out of sync,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “The premise of their defense is to pack everybody in and make you take jump shots. We took about five jump shots right away early in the game and missed all of them. It seemed like it continued to snow ball. Then finally Zeke hit a few and we got down 7 or 8 and brought us back.”

Howland almost negated the Bruins’ size advantage over the thin Trojans by benching sophomore center Joshua Smith for the first half for being four minutes late to the team bus, which traveled the short distance from the J.W. Marriott in L.A. Live to Staples Center, Smith actually beating the bus to the game on foot.

In his stead, David and Travis Wear tried to capitalize but could not, combining for 20 points and nine rebounds. Worse, UCLA was not making USC pay for collapsing into the post as the backcourt duo of Jones and Jerime Anderson opened the game a combined 2-of-10 shooting.

The Trojans faded quickly in the second half, however, and the Bruins opened with an 18-4 run, eventually putting the finishing touches on one of USC’s worst seasons in history.

“Honestly, I don’t know the answer,” Trojans guard Byron Wesley said. “We came out strong. We had lots of energy in the first half. We had lots of momentum. Second half, we had the same game plan. Wanted to come out strong, but things just didn’t pan out.”

UCLA now moves on to face a Wildcats team in a state of flux, as head coach Sean Miller announced the suspension of freshman point guard Josiah Turner for a violation of team rules. Turner had eight points and five rebounds in 35 minutes in the team’s Feb. 25 matchup in Tucson, a 65-63 Arizona win.

“They’ll rally,” Howland said. “I mean, they’re coming off a tough loss against a rival school, Arizona State, and you know they’re going to want to play well. I think they suspended Josiah back in November, and they played very well without him. So I don’t know that they’re going to skip much of a beat in that respect, and probably brings their guys even more unified.”

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  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    Jon: Great to have you back in the saddle.
    And Big Josh “running” after the bus still has me laughing. Outloud.
    Lastly, are you hosting SNL bearded or Oscar-clean?

  • BruinRogue

    That is one slow bus when Josh Smith can beat you in a foot race.

  • Songbird

    Look on the bright side, guys – Josh Smith got some extra exercise!

  • mark smith

    about as full as a sumo wrestler after a rice cake: i love that. Keep them coming Jon.

  • Anonymous

    Hey 50-0 and Monopoly is over here: You just got your boys just got their asses handed to them by the Mighty Bruins for the third time in 10 weeks. School record 26 losses. Wow! Oh, but they’ll be so much better next year. Can’t wait.

  • Anonymous

    Hey 50-0 and Monopoly is over here: Your boys just got their asses handed to them by the Mighty Bruins for the third time in 10 weeks. School record 26 losses. Wow! Oh, but they’ll be so much better next year. Can’t wait. Sorry for the bad editing above.

  • TruBruin

    UNWATCHABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Fire Dan Guerrero NOW! Take Howland with you

  • Warren

    There was some horrible offense, and for the first 5-10 minutes, horrible defense by the Bruins. I thought their defense actually played pretty well in the 2nd half, if you go back and look at how many open shots USC got.

    Hopefully, UCLA will be able to play that kind of defense for the full game, because Arizona won’t be as easy to stop, and won’t be as pathetic as USC was.

  • BruinAficionado

    “Smith actually beating the bus to the game on foot”

    Someone must have told JS that there was all-you-can-eat pre-game donuts.

  • Anonymous

    Memo to Josie Smith:
    Take off that ridiculous condom-like apparel you have on your arms. You are not Dwight Howard. Heck, you are not even Tractor Traylor. You are an overweight kid who should do a Jarrett commercial on Subway. So if you are not serious about being a basketball player and want to join the Hot Dog Eating Contest at Cooney Island, then go ahead. But stop embarass the 4-letter brand on your chest. If you do decide to go to the NBA D league, then take Howland with you. Good God. You and the rest of the basketball team have turned UCLA to Uninspired Clumsy Lazy Athletes.

  • Go Back to BN

    For the commenter above, leave that bitter negativity at the BN site. It’s clear where you get your nomenclature from, and to define UCLA with that last sentence is just wrong. Grow up and judge your own life first. We all know Josh hasn’t performed, but to all of you who spew such juvenile venom, get a life.

  • Anonymous

    Well.. heck why stop at the armwrap, take away his mouthguard. Now that I think about it , make him play without his socks. You know what, take his shoes away, too. And if you don’t stop using the company’s computer to read internet blog that has nothing to do with your work I’ll confiscate your PC and make you write your report with a pad and pencil.

  • Anonymous

    At least some of us have a job. I hope some of you enjoyed last night’s game. If they play the same way, today’s game will make you really happy. I promise. I guessed it’s ok for fans and alumni to accept mediocrity. No wonder the AD and heach coach are not worried because there’s no pressure on them.

  • Anonymous

    That’s right. Because he underperformed this year we should just take away anything that may help him physically. The elbow thing may look ridiculous but if it helps him then he should be able to wear it. Has he under-achieved so far? YES! Is he out of shape? YES! Should he have any excuses for those? NO! But getting on him for wearing that elbow wrap?!?!? Get real!!

  • Anonymous

    I love when out of shape old guys make fun of Josh Smith for being out of shape.

  • Anonymous

    Hope you enjoy that crap that Howland and the boys are serving against AZ. 4 points in 6 minutes. Awesome Div I basketball. You guys just don’t get it.

  • Amillennialist

    A Nestor sighting:

    “Josie Smith”
    “Cooney [sic] Island”
    “stop embarass [sic] the 4-letter [sic]”
    “take Howland with you”
    “turned UCLA to [sic] Uninspired Clumsy Lazy Athletes.”

    Speaking of embarrassing UCLA.

    If Josh takes off his arm-wrap, will you put down your keyboard?

    Forget the Four Letters; you don’t deserve them. You get Four Feathers instead:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0240510/

  • Maze

    @Amillenialist

    Always on point! =)

    @Anon 3:15pm

    Save your cowardly drive-by drivel for Bandwagon Nation. “You won’t be missed. Thanks.”