UCLA avoids 5th straight loss to USC, routs its rival

Steve Alford looked like he might make it all the way to mid-court – while the game was ongoing. The UCLA basketball coach clapped fiercely at his team early in Saturday’s second half, unaware of his surroundings but plenty cognizant of his team’s destination in the Pac-12 standings.

UCLA earned a redemptive 102-70 win over rival USC Saturday night that was significant for so many reasons. The Bruins avoided a fifth consecutive loss to their rival, which would have been its longest streak since the late 1940s. It avenged the ugliest mark on its NCAA tournament resume, an 84-76 loss to the Trojans on Jan. 25. The Bruins created a divide in the conference standings, above which it sits with only Oregon and Arizona. And UCLA proved against a competent basketball team that it may be playing its best basketball of the season at the best time.

The Bruins’ offense, the highest scoring and most efficient in the country, is back in fifth gear. And their defense is making strides that can’t be ignored. A date at Arizona awaits on Feb. 25, but so far UCLA has avenged two of its three losses this season, none sweeter than Saturday night’s shellacking of its crosstown rival.

Links from tonight’s coverage:

  • Game story: UCLA embarrasses USC, ends losing streak at four
  • Jeff Miller: UCLA and USC ready for something bigger
  • Scott Wolf: USC loses opportunity to gain national respect
  • Bennie Boatwright’s return wasn’t enough for USC
  • Notebook: UCLA’s attendance its best in 19 years
  • Photo Gallery: The many faces of Bryce Alford
  • Video: Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf on 32-point win
  • Video: Bryce Alford on his “Kobe face”
  • Video: Steve Alford on growth since last loss to USC