UCLA to start Pac-12 Tournament against Arizona State or USC

Thomas Welsh (40) celebrates with Norman Powell (4) and Bryce Alford as UCLA defeated USC 85-74 on March 4, 2015.  The teams could face each other again in Las Vegas. (John McCoy/Staff)

Thomas Welsh (40) celebrates with Norman Powell (4) and Bryce Alford as UCLA defeated USC 85-74 on March 4, 2015. The teams could face each other again in Las Vegas. (John McCoy/Staff)

UCLA finished its regular season on Wednesday with a win over USC, leaving the Bruins with nearly eight days until their first game in the Pac-12 Tournament.

They now know who they’ll likely face next Thursday at 2:40 p.m. Arizona State clinched the No. 5 seed today when it beat Cal and Stanford lost to Arizona. That matches the Sun Devils up against the 12th-seeded Trojans on Wednesday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena; the winner will advance to face No. 4-seeded UCLA.

USC only has five conference wins in two seasons under Andy Enfield, none of which have come against their crosstown rival. ASU beat the Bruins in their only meeting this year, taking a 68-66 decision in Tempe.

If UCLA wins that Thursday game, it will almost certainly draw No. 1 seed Arizona in the semifinals — assuming that the Wildcats dispatch either Cal or Washington State. An upset by the Bruins to reach the Pac-12 title game would move the team off the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Here’s the full Pac-12 Tournament schedule: Continue reading

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UCLA 85, USC 74: Steve Alford on Bruins’ win, postseason outlook

UCLA beat USC, 85-74, on Wednesday to clinch the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament — also ensuring a last-place finish for the Trojans. The Bruins will need to win at least one game in Las Vegas to stay in the NCAA Tournament picture.

“We’ve still got work to do, just like a lot of teams in the country,” head coach Steve Alford said. “You can’t stop. You’ve got work to do. This team’s playing better. It’s playing very good at the right time.”

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Norman Powell gets standing ovation during UCLA ‘Senior Night’

UCLA held a “Senior Night” ceremony shortly before Wednesday night’s tipoff against USC. Unsurprisingly, starting guard Norman Powell got the loudest reception, drawing a standing ovation from Pauley Pavilion when his name was announced.

Also recognized were walk-on guards David Brown, Nick Kazemi and Kory Alford.

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Norman Powell wants to make sure USC finishes last in the Pac-12

Norman Powell wants to leave Pauley Pavilion with one more win against USC. He scored 22 points in an 83-66 victory over the Trojans on Jan. 14. (John McCoy/Staff)

Norman Powell wants to leave Pauley Pavilion with one more win against USC. He scored 22 points in an 83-66 victory over the Trojans on Jan. 14. (John McCoy/Staff)

Norman Powell has played in 135 career games for UCLA, a mark bested by only a handful of other Bruins in program history. Along the way, he has gone from little-used benchwarmer to one of the most exciting driving guards in the conference.

He has also gone 7-1 against USC, becoming the first UCLA player to get a career road sweep against the Trojans since Toby Bailey did from 1995-98.

It’s fitting then that the 6-foot-4 guard will get to face the crosstown rival on Wednesday at 6 p.m., his last game ever at Pauley Pavilion barring a trip to the NIT. Asked about playing the Trojans, Powell relayed a message he said head coach Steve Alford had used to open the week.

“We have a chance to make them finish last in the conference,” he said. Continue reading

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