It was this kind of day for the USC
When the ubiquitous "fan cam" was used for the first time at the Galen Center, the first fan shown was wearing UCLA
blue and holding up a No. 1 finger.
At least we know the camera operator is honest.
The loudest, and only, ovation from the home crowd came when the Trojans' NCAA
men's water polo champions were introduced. "Can they suit up and play basketball?" a fan muttered.
On an afternoon when USC was beaten badly in every part of the game, the Trojans lost to UCLA, 75-59, on Sunday.
The win pushed the Bruins
(20-7, 10-4 Pac-12
) to within a half-game of first place in the conference behind Oregon
, both 11-4. The Bruins play Arizona on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
The Trojans (12-15, 7-7), who held a 15-point second-half lead at California on Feb. 17 before losing, are now seventh in the Pac-12
. They face Arizona on Wednesday.
Center Dewayne Dedmon, who had said last week that scoring off a lob was his favorite play, fell down with a loud "boom" when an alley-oop was attempted. He scored only four points.
Instead, it was the Bruins who ran past, around and over the Trojans.
UCLA was ahead 7-0 before the Trojans scored a basket, and afterward USC interim Coach Bob Cantu seemed to say the game was over at that point.
"We got down 7-0 right out of the gate and from that point it was tough to battle out of that," said Cantu, whose chair collapsed as he sat down after the game.
"That's about how the night went," he said.
UCLA guard Jordan Adams agreed with Cantu. "It helped a lot," Adams said of the quick start
. "We're not really a catch-up team. We wanted to come out and throw the first punch."
USC missed nine of its first 11 shots while UCLA was making eight of its first 10, and the tone had been set for good.
By halftime UCLA led, 47-26, having shot 58.6% from the field (17 for 29). And the Bruins did all this with one of their starters, forward Travis Wear, sidelined because of an injured right foot. Wear said he hoped to be back Wednesday for Arizona State
, but it turned out he wasn't needed against USC.
"I thought our first half was tremendous," said UCLA Coach Ben Howland, who had only sevenscholarship
players at his disposal. "Overall it's a great win."
Howland also noted that freshman center Tony Parker
, who had eight points and three rebounds in 17 minutes (the most he has played in a Pac-12 game), was a tremendous help in Wear's absence.
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and senior associate athletic director J.K. McKay watched the game from the student section, and what they saw presumably would not make them inclined to remove the "interim" title and make Cantu the permanent replacement for Kevin O'Neill
, who was fired last month.
USC never got closer than 11 in the second half, when the game got a little chippy, especially when the Trojans' Byron Wesley was charged with a flagrant foul against Shabazz Muhammad
with 7:55 left and UCLA ahead 64-46.
A few minutes earlier, UCLA backup
guard Norman Powell and USC backup center Omar Oraby had been assessed technicals for making physical contact after a play had finished.
After trailing by as many as 25, USC drew to within 12 on consecutive baskets, a J.T. Terrell
three-pointer and a rebound basket from Eric Wise that made the score 66-54.
A minute later it was 68-57 after another Terrell three-pointer, and USC could have pulled to within 68-59 with 4:44 left had Wise not missed two free throws.
Terrell led the Trojans with 17 points and Dedmon had a game-high 12 rebounds, but all five UCLA starters scored in double figures, led by Adams' 20. David Wear, Travis' twin brother, had 10 points and 11 rebounds and point guard Larry Drew II had 11 points and six assists.
"I love seeing five guys in double figures," Howland said. "When we have that kind of balance, that's when we have our best games."
Trojans point guard Jio Fontan only had four points on two-for-11 shooting and committed five turnovers. His quickest move of the night was leaving Galen before reporters could find him.
"Jio, the shots just didn't go down for him," Cantu said.
Terrell, who was four for eight from beyond the three-point line, said his team's 17 turnovers and lazy defense were the chief problems.
"UCLA did a great job of knocking down shots," Terrell said. "We didn't do as well as we usually do on the defensive end. And we had a lot of unforced turnovers. I think we gave the game away."
With Travis Wear out, the 6-9 Bruins player makes the most of his opportunity, giving UCLA a strong presence in the first half of its 75-59 victory over USC.
By Chris Foster
The LA Times
6:47 PM PST, February 24, 2013
UCLA's Tony Parker
slipped away without comment after a 75-59 victory over USC on Sunday. He was not made available to the media after the game, but his play, for once, could speak for itself.
What the Bruins can be and what the Bruins are was clear from Parker's play.
The 6-foot-9, 275-pound enigma from Georgia, had eight points, three rebounds, a block and a steal in 13 more-bang-for-your-buck minutes during the first half. UCLA bolted to a 47-26 halftime lead.
Parker was limited to four scoreless minutes in the second half. The Bruins limped home with a key victory that left them a half-game out of first in the Pac-12
"Tony's a banger … when he wants to be," point guard Larry Drew II said. "When he has his head in the right place, he can be unstoppable. I tell him that every day."
The Bruins were already off to a fast start
at Galen Center on Sunday. But their personality underwent a mood swing when Parker entered the game. He immediately scored on a power move for a 19-6 UCLA lead.
Parker made four of seven shots.
It made playing without 6-foot-10 Travis Wear — sidelined because of a sprained right foot — a lot less painful.
"It's good to see somebody who has been so patient for so long have a great game," guard Kyle Anderson said. "I always tell him he has to be ready. Today he was ready."
The Bruins' future may hinge on how ready Parker remains.
In home games, the Bruins face a rugged Arizona State team Wednesday and 12th-ranked Arizona on Saturday. Travis Wear is iffy at best for Arizona State.
UCLA then closes with a two-game swing through Washington before the Pac-12 tournament.
"The Wears are 6-10, but they are more face-up guys," Drew said. "You need a guy sitting on the block, banging with other players. That's what Tony brings. It's definitely important this last stretch and in the conference tournament."
David Wear, starting in place of his brother, had 10 points and 11 rebounds, but he could see a difference when Parker spread his wings.
"He is more of a true post presence, with his size and strength around the basket," Wear said.
While the rest of UCLA's No. 2-ranked freshman class — Anderson, Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad — has played extensively, Parker had logged 23 minutes in the previous five games.
Parker didn't leave the bench the final 15 minutes Sunday. Coach Ben Howland said, "He got tired and they were making a run. I hate to throw a guy who's a freshman in there in that kind of melee."
Howland heaped praise on Parker, saying, "He hasn't got to play
as much as he would like, but he has stayed positive even though everybody was asking, 'How does it feel not playing as much as you want?' I would tell him, we're going to have a huge game and you're going to be thrust in."
By RYAN KARTJE / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Published: Feb. 24, 2013 Updated: 6:28 p.m.
LOS ANGELES – It almost seemed too easy the way UCLA ran up and down the floor at Galen Center on Sunday, running its offense with a newfound ease that couldn't have been any more different than when it last matched up with USC.
That was certainly how UCLA coach Ben Howland had intended for the second matchup with the Bruins' crosstown rival to go. All week long, he showed his players film from the first matchup – a four-point loss at Pauley Pavilion – in hopes of re-creating the bad taste his players had in their mouths soon after the initial defeat.
USC guard Jio Fontan (center) shoots as UCLA forward Tony Parker
(top) defends and guard Larry Drew II watches during the first half on Sunday in Los Angeles.
MARK J. TERRILL, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
And judging by how thoroughly UCLA dominated USC on Sunday – a 75-59 drubbing that was never in question – it seemed Howland's strategy worked.
Motivation, which has been an ongoing problem this season for such a young team, had been the Bruins' biggest question mark in the rivalry's last go-round. But there was no such issue in the two teams' second meeting, as UCLA (20-7, 10-4 Pac-12
) never lost the lead – at one point leading by 25 points – and put together one of its best defensive performances of the season, holding USC (12-15, 7-7) to 35 percent from the field.
"The energy just wasn't there (in the last game)," point guard Larry Drew II said. "Guys were blowing defensive assignments
left and right. We didn't play together as a team for whatever reason. It was much different today."
The victory was all the more impressive given the fact that the Bruins lost forward Travis Wear to an injury on Saturday, forcing his brother, David Wear, to step into the starting lineup. He responded with one of his best performances of the season, pulling down 11 rebounds and scoring 10 points.
Freshman Tony Parker also put together, arguably, the best performance of his short career
with the Bruins, scoring eight points on 4 of 7 shooting – all of which came in the first half. Parker's performance, especially, was the subject of an onslaught of praise from Howland after the game.
"To win here on the road without Travis available to us was absolutely a significant statement by our young guys and our team," Howland said. "Dave Wear and Tony really stepped up in the absence of Travis today and played great. It just shows we have a lot of great players."
The Bruins certainly flashed some signs of greatness in the blowout, but with four key games remaining before the end of the regular season, prolonging that kind of performance will be key, especially this weekend when Arizona and Arizona State come to town. It's a weekend that could potentially put the Bruins in the driver's seat for at least a share of the Pac-12 title.
And on Sunday, UCLA looked like a potential Pac-12 contender for the first time in a long time. The shots were falling – the Bruins shot 59 percent in the first half. They were creating turnovers – 17 of them, to be specific. And their offense put together one of its most balanced efforts of the season as all five UCLA starters scored in double figures.
"When we have that kind of balance, that's when we've had our best games and our best teams over the years," Howland said. "This is a huge win."
Travis Wear, who sprained a ligament in his right foot in the first five minutes of practice on Saturday, is day-to-day, Howland said. Wear still had a lot of swelling before Sunday's game. ... Shabazz Muhammad scored 11 points on 2-of-7 shooting on Sunday, but he was still visibly affected by pink eye, which kept him out of practice earlier in the week. Sunday's game was Muhammad's first day wearing contact lenses again.
By JEFF MILLERCOLUMNISTORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Published: Feb. 24, 2013 Updated: 8:56 p.m.
LOS ANGELES – When these rivals last met, UCLA retired Reggie Miller's jersey at halftime.
On Sunday, the Bruins retired USC's jerseys – and the players wrapped inside them – even sooner than that.
UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad, top, shoots as USC guard Jio Fontan falls during the first half on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Mark J. Terrill, AP
At various points of the first half at Galen Center, the score was 17-4, 34-19 and 42-23. After 20 minutes, the gap was 21 points – 47-26 – and, having witnessed Lane Kiffin all fall, no one around here seriously anticipated a three-touchdown comeback from the Trojans.
Not even the hilarious yet bizarre image of Athletic Director Pat Haden, a Rhodes scholar, remember, donning a football helmet and dancing among the students during a timeout could ignite the home team.
Maybe Kiffin should have joined Haden in the wacky promotion. Then again, he probably was too busy trying to figure out if deflating the basketballs would help.
USC, to its credit, did close
to within single digits in the final five minutes, but UCLA's 75-59 payback victory most assuredly was the end result of an opening flurry. Not a knockout, exactly, but a series of staggering blows, certainly.
"We're not really a catch-up team," UCLA freshman guard Jordan Adams said. "So we wanted to get out early and throw the first punch."
Added junior forward David Wear: "We came out here and jumped them early."
This is a program that doesn't need to manufacture motivation. The players – touted as a magnificent collection of brilliant young talent – are huffing and puffing just to secure an NCAA berth. Ben Howland – the most successful coach in the Pac-12
during his tenure – is just trying to keep his job.
And against USC, the Bruins were only trying to right their entire universe, that's all.
At the end of January, they came out dead-legged against the Trojans at home, shot like the basket was swaying in the first half, and rallied to extend the game into overtime, where they lost anyway to an opponent that, two weeks earlier, had canned its coach.
"It was effort," Wear said. "Our effort just wasn't there. It was inexcusable. We watched a lot of film of that last game. I think that motivated us a lot just seeing how bad we played."
So continues the revolution – that's what Howland hopes it is, at least – of a team trying to sort out itself. Howland is still trying to solve his kid players, who, in turn, are attempting to figure out their coach and themselves.
Here, the Bruins won with no drama despite being without the injured Travis Wear, their second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, and with Shabazz Muhammad, their best player, shooting as if he were blind.
Turns out, Muhammad was. Sort of. He has been battling pink eye and, according to Howland, had his contacts in for the first time in four days. Muhammad took seven shots and missed five of them.
One of his attempts in the second half was nearly inhaled by USC's Dewayne Dedmon. The 7-footer was content to simply swat Muhammad's layup try like a brother initiating a younger sibling.
Pressed for an explanation of what happened to his dynamic freshman forward and future NBA starter, Howland chose to move on to a topic he considered more relevant.
"It's all about winning," he said. "That's what we're trying to do here. It's not about the stat sheet other than the 'W' or the 'L.' "
ESPN's latest prediction has the Bruins (20-7, 10-4) as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. CBS forecasts the Bruins as a No. 8, while – quite unnecessarily – adding the notation "on the bubble."
Howland knows this, of course, which might explain why he was so excited Sunday with the inspired effort of Tony Parker. A freshman averaging only seven minutes a game, Parker had eight points – all in that decisive first half – in 17 minutes total.
He is 6-9 and 275 pounds, meaning Parker's emergence would only make the Bruins deeper. And wider. The performance also highlighted the character of a player who, given his lack of opportunity, could instead be a stewin' Bruin.
"He's been a great teammate," Howland said. "There isn't a nicer kid that I've ever coached. Not a nicer human being, a young man, ever. And I've been doing this a long time. For me, that's a big statement, but it's the honest-to-God truth."
UCLA next returns home to play Arizona State. The game is Wednesday.
Yeah, we just double-checked. It's definitely Wednesday.
"I didn't even know we were playing Wednesday until yesterday," Howland claimed. "That's how much I'm looking forward to just the next game. I found out yesterday because a friend of mine called me and wanted tickets. I said, 'You sure we're playing Wednesday?'"
The Bruins will be looking for another great start against the Sun Devils. That, however, isn't the most important thing for the future of this program.
No, what really matters now, for the younger and celebrated players and their older and concerned coach, is the quality of the finish.
By RICH HAMMOND / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Published: Feb. 24, 2013 Updated: 5:30 p.m.
LOS ANGELES – What went wrong for USC on Sunday afternoon? Omar Oraby, take one step
back. The rest of the Trojans can take an equal share of the blame for a dismal 75-59 loss to UCLA.
The Trojans missed eight of their first nine shots, missed far too many layups and free throws and were slow on transition defense. Even interim coach Bob Cantu, credited with turning around USC's season since taking over for Kevin O'Neill two months ago, made a couple questionable rotation choices.
UCLA guard Larry Drew II, left, passes the ball as USC guard Jio Fontan defends during the second half on Sunday in Los Angeles. UCLA won 75-59.
Mark J. Terrill, AP
USC (12-15, 7-7) hoped for a bounce-back effort after the Trojans blew a 15-point second-half lead in a loss to Cal last Sunday, but the Trojans gave up the first seven points to the Bruins and never led.
The Trojans shot 35.3 percent from the field, were 6 for 11 from the free-throw line
and had 17 turnovers compared to 12 assists. UCLA led by 19 at halftime and as many as 25 points in the second half.
''Obviously it's a loss, but with the rivalry it's bigger than a loss,'' USC guard J.T. Terrell said. ''I don't feel as bad, knowing that we got the (series) split. Hopefully we can see them again in the Pac-12
USC has four games remaining in the regular season, including Wednesday's home game against Arizona, and not much time to correct, well, pretty much everything.
Senior point guard Jio Fontan went 2 for 11 from the field and ran a USC offense that looked rushed. The Trojans seemed to revert to their former (losing) ways under O'Neill, as they forced up awkward, low-percentage shots and missed layups. Fontan was far from the only culprit. Eric Wise from 4 for 12 from the field and Byron Wesley was 3 for 11.
In the first half, Oraby came off the bench and made 3 of 4 shots. His teammates went a combined 7 for 26 from the field. Oraby played only five minutes in the second half, though, an odd choice by Cantu given that Oraby seemed to be establishing position inside and scoring easily against a shorthanded UCLA frontcourt.
Oraby finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 12 minutes, and had some USC fans chanting, ''We want Omar'' as he sat on the bench. Cantu instead with Dewayne Dedmon, who had 12 rebounds in 28 minutes but also shot 2 for 8 from the field and, at one point, tried a fallaway jumper from three feet. He missed.
After the game, Cantu faced questions about why he didn't play
Oraby -- or perhaps Aaron Fuller, who got only six minutes -- more in place of Dedmon. USC pulled within nine points with four minutes remaining in the second half, but then didn't score a point for the rest of the game.
''(Oraby) did play really well,'' Cantu said. ''I have to give him a lot of credit. We went smaller in the second half, defensively, because we were trying to pressure to get back in it. We definitely could have used his offense in the second half.''
Despite all that, offense might not have been the biggest area of disappointment for USC.
In last month's victory at Pauley Pavilion, the Trojans played excellent transition defense. They got set early and often forced the Bruins into perimeter shots, which they missed. This time, UCLA had two layups and a putback in the first five minutes as the Bruins raced to a 14-4 lead.
''Our transition defense was something that had been pretty good,'' Cantu said. ''We gave up some layups and easy run-outs early, which helped them build that lead. I don't think we did a good job of defending the perimeter, like we had in the past. They got really good looks.''