JAN 25, 2017 | clay fowler | inland valley daily bulletin-LA Daily news | ARTICLE LINK
Before it even took the court Wednesday night, USC made clear that it wasn’t afraid to run with UCLA.
The Trojans started four guards against a team with a fast break led by a future lottery pick and 3-point shooting prowess that has made it one of the most entertaining tickets in college basketball.
USC beat UCLA at its own game, handing the No. 8 team in the country an 84-76 loss. It was USC capitalizing on turnovers and raining 3-pointers, not the team that entered with the most efficient offense in the country.
UCLA shot a respectable 48 percent from the field, but the team that entered with the second-best 3-point percentage in the nation (43.4) shot just 30 percent from beyond the arc.
The extended zone defense USC employed after UCLA took an 8-0 lead limited a UCLA team that set a school record with 19 3-pointers Jan. 12 in Colorado to just 20 attempts from 3-point range.
It’s hard to know what’s more concerning, the percentage or the number of attempts.
“Once they went zone, we hard a hard time finding anyone because there was no 1-on-1 matchup anymore,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “We didn’t get the open shots I thought we would get if we got the ball to the middle or the baseline. That’s something we’re going to really have to look at and work on our zone offense because we do have the shooters.”
While USC made nine of its season-high 14 3-pointers in the first half, UCLA made just two. Equally surprising were the Bruins’ five attempts from beyond the arc in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Trailing USC late, it needed a flurry of desperate 3-point attempts in the final minutes to reach 20 attempts, lowing what was a decent percentage to 30 in the process.
Aaron Holiday made the Bruins second 3-pointer of the night at the 13:37 mark of the first half, but UCLA didn’t make another until 23 minutes later when Bryce Alford made his only shot of the game.
Alford finished 1 of 7 from the field with three points.
The quarterback of the most explosive offense in the country, point guard Lonzo Ball, committed a season-high seven turnovers and had a season-low four assists. The freshman had 15 points on 4 of 9 shooting with 10 rebounds.
“This loss was my fault,” Ball said. “I had a hundred turnovers. So we’ll get back in the lab and work on it.”
UCLA finished with a season-high 17 turnovers, limiting its volume on offense.
The Bruins’ other obvious strength, its transition game, was limited to six points. Meanwhile plenty of USC’s 3-pointers were the product of a transition game jump-started by UCLA’s turnovers.
“Transition off of our turnovers was huge,” Steve Alford said. “We just gave up too many things off our own mistakes. Hopefully the bye week comes at a pretty good time for us.”