UCLA’s comfortable win over USC kept its Pac-12 title hopes alive. The Bruins sit just a half-game back of Arizona and Oregon for the conference lead, and will play the Wildcats again at home on Saturday. Pauley Pavilion will host ESPN’s College GameDay as a lead-up, with doors opening at 5 a.m.
Here are some notes from the Galen Center.
– The Bruins were outrebounded 42-37 and gave 21 second-chance points, but made up for that with a balanced offensive attack. UCLA opened the game on a 19-6 run in the first five minutes, and led by as much as much as 25 before the Trojans chipped back to within 11 points.
Five players score in double figures for the first time since beating James Madison 100-70 in November.
“I love seeing five guys in double figures,” coach Ben Howland said. “When we have that kind of balance, that’s when we’ve had our best teams over the years.”
The offense did struggle in the second half, shooting just 33.3 percent as the Trojans mixed in a bit of zone defense.
– Travis Wear is day to day with a sprained ankle, which means freshman Tony Parker may be in line for increased minutes against Arizona State on Wednesday. The 6-foot-9, 275-pound big man didn’t pad his stats in garbage time, scoring all his eight points in the first half — mostly converting good looks in the low post off assists from point guard Larry Drew II.
“I tell Tony, ‘Man, you’re so big,’” Drew said. “Off the court, he’s a really nice guy. he’s the coolest person to be around. He’s a real sweet kid.
“But on the court, I’m telling him ‘You have no friends. Go in and try to hurt somebody, man. When you pick, roll hard to the cut and I’ll find you.’ I tell him that every day in practice. He finally got some minutes and you can see it’s starting to pay off.”
Forward David Wear also had a solid showing after struggling in recent weeks, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 boards for his first double-double since the season opener.
– The near-blowout at the Galen Center also underscored the awfulness UCLA’s 75-71 overtime loss to USC. The Bruins are clearly the better team, and shouldn’t have shot 38.2 percent at Pauley Pavilion three weeks ago — particularly not while allowing 42 points in the paint to the Trojans.
“The energy wasn’t there,” Drew said. “Guys were blowing defensive assignments left and right. We just weren’t there together as a team for whatever reason. It was much different today. I’m proud of my guys.”
Added David Wear, who said reviewing film from the loss provided some extra incentive: “I think it definitely pulled at us a little bit, just seeing how terrible we played — especially at home against a team like SC. It was inexcusable.”
– Drew was happy that he ensured a win over USC in his lone season at UCLA: “The fact that it was beating USC while I had this UCLA jersey on means a little bit more.”
– Howland attributed Shabazz Muhammad’s 2-of-7 shooting performance to pink eye more than USC’s defense. The star freshman wasn’t able to wear contacts for most of the week due to the condition. Muhammad’s right eye still looked visibly red after the game.