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Tuesday, January 31, 2017
More on SC loss: USC beats UCLA a fourth straight time behind 3-pointers, defense
JAN 25, 2017 | joey kaufman |
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LOS ANGELES – Shaqquan Aaron carried a basketball in his right arm late Wednesday as he arrived at the podium for a news conference following USC’s 84-76 upset of eighth-ranked UCLA.
A reporter asked Aaron if that was the game ball.
The Trojans’ sophomore guard informed him that it was not.
So, what was it for?
“I’m just about to go shoot after this,” Aaron said.
It was as good a night as any. Aaron, a transfer from Louisville, finished with a game-high 23 points for USC, shooting 50 percent and hitting four of nine attempts from 3-point range, in front of a rabid, sold-out Galen Center crowd of 10,258.
“Big game, big stage, this is where I want to play,” Aaron said, “and I have to step up and help my team.
He was one of five players to score in double figures for the Trojans, who extended their winning streak to four games over the Bruins in the teams’ first meeting this season. They defeated their crosstown rivals three times last season by an average of 19 points.
Their next matchup at Pauley Pavilion comes in mid-February.
For USC, it marked a résumé-padding victory, its first of the season over a ranked team, as it improved to 18-4 overall and 5-4 in the Pac-12 Conference.
“It ranks up there with our good wins,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
For UCLA, it was its second straight loss, after falling last week at home to Arizona. It dropped to 19-3 overall and 6-3 in conference.
“I’ve got a pretty tough group,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said, “so we’ll bounce back.”
Aaron’s four 3-pointers were among 14 for the Trojans, matching their season-high.
“When your power forward is 6-3,” Enfield said, referring to his four-guard lineup without forward Bennie Boatwright, “you better spread the floor and make some 3s.”
USC’s onslaught came late in the first half, after trailing 28-26 with 7:35 left.
Aaron began an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer and scored eight of the 11 points during the run, hitting another shot from beyond the arc. Fourteen of his 23 points came in the first 20 minutes.
“We stayed composed,” Aaron said.
The Trojans outscored the Bruins, 26-10, over the final seven minutes of the opening half.
“We realized that on offense we pretty much could get every shot we wanted,” forward Chimezie Metu said. “We just came down every time offensively and executed ourselves.
Junior guard Elijah Stewart, who added 15 points for the Trojans, capped the push with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from atop the key.
As the buzzer sounded and USC had taken a 50-38 halftime lead, a mob of teammates rushed to center court to celebrate with Stewart.
UCLA had started the game on an 8-0 run, spurred by three straight baskets by junior center Thomas Welsh.
As the game progressed, the Bruins faced trouble passing into Welsh in the low post, stifled by USC’s defense, which often went into a zone.
Not only was UCLA held to its second-lowest point total of the season, but it had 17 turnovers, including 13 in the first half.
“Adversity hit and we all split ways,” heralded freshman guard Lonzo Ball said. “We’ve got to come together. It’s a team thing, starts with me. Put this loss on my back. I’ll take it.”
Ball, who averaged 8.2 assists and just 2.3 turnovers in his first 21 games, left with a season-high seven turnovers and only four assists and was derided with chants of, “Over-rated! Over-rated!” throughout much of the second half.
De’Anthony Melton, USC’s freshman guard, forced several of Ball’s turnovers, coming away with four steals.
The Bruins got within four points on an Aaron Holiday free throw with 6:09 left, but the Trojans responded with flair.
Stewart finished with a put-back slam on the next possession, reaching in the air to grab the ball with his right hand. Metu followed with a dunk.
The crowd roared, as USC led for the entire second half, headed to another win over UCLA, but with its sights set on more.
“It’s just a building block,” Metu said. “We took a step forward and have to build off it.”