Tuesday, January 14, 2020

UCLA fails to protect home court, loses to USC 74-63

Junior guard Chris Smith another solid outing with a double-double against the Trojans, 16 points and 10 rebounds. To the tapes!

Short and sweet from the Pac-12 Networks

Long and sour from Matthew Loves Ball

Post-game chat from UCLA Athletics

UCLA Falls to USC, 74-63

from the UCLA Men's Basketball website  LOS ANGELES – Junior Chris Smith registered 16 points and 10 rebounds as the UCLA men's basketball team lost to USC, 74-63, on Saturday evening in Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom.

Sophomore Jalen Hill finished with 14 points off the bench for the Bruins (8-8, 1-2 Pac-12), making 4 of 5 shots before a sellout crowd of 13,659 at UCLA.

Prince Ali rounded out UCLA's list of double-figure scorers with 10 points.

USC's Nick Rakocevic had game highs of 17 points and 14 rebounds for USC (13-3, 2-1 Pac-12). Jonah Mathews added 16 points, including 14 during a second half in which the Trojans converted 16 of 23 shots from the field (69.6 percent).

The Bruins were outrebounded for the first time this season, as USC held a 35-31 advantage on the boards.

"Obviously, our defense in the second half was about as bad as it can get," said Mick Cronin, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men's Head Basketball Coach. "They hit a couple backbreaking threes at the end of the shot clock where we actually did play decent defense for seven seconds. Couple one-on-one threes where we actually did play decent defense. Those broke our back, I thought. Give them credit. I thought their toughness, their offensive toughness with the basketball against our pressure was the key to the game."

The lead changed hands six times and neither team held an advantage of greater than five points during the first half. UCLA was a force on the offensive glass during the game's opening 20 minutes, scoring 11 second-chance points. USC got to the free throw line early and often in the first half, making 9 of 12 attempts.

Ethan Anderson of the Trojans scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half to lead all players, while Smith nearly matched him with 11 of his own. USC led UCLA by a 33-31 margin at halftime.

The Trojans made eight of their first nine field-goal attempts in the second half and used a 7-0 scoring run to increase its lead to a game-high 14 points, at 58-44, with 9:03 to go.

UCLA responded with a 13-5 run to cut the deficit to six points with 4:05 remaining. Consecutive three-pointers by Daniel Utomi, who finished with 13 points for USC, and Mathews helped the Trojans hold off UCLA's late run.

The Trojans shot 27 for 47 (57.4 percent) for the game, including 7 of 14 from 3-point distance. The Bruins converted 22 of 58 shots from the field (38 percent) and made 16 of 22 free throws, including 13 of 18 in the second half.

The Bruins will return to action at home against Stanford on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Game time in Pauley Pavilion is 7 p.m. (PT). The Bruins' game will be televised on Pac-12 Network.

UCLA will conclude its three-game homestand with a contest against California on Sunday, Jan. 19. 

Postgame Quotes - UCLA vs. USC

USC 74, UCLA 63
January 11, 2020

Full Postgame Press Conference Videos
Coach Cronin: click here
UCLA’s student-athletes: click here

Mick Cronin, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach
opening statement
“Obviously, our defense in the second half was about as bad as it can get. They hit a couple backbreaking threes at the end of the shot clock where we actually did play decent defense for seven seconds. Couple one-on-one threes where we actually did play decent defense. Those broke our back, I thought. Give them credit. I thought their toughness, their offensive toughness with the basketball against our pressure was the key to the game. They only had 11 assists, but I thought they passed the ball really well and they were strong with the ball. But to give up 57 percent for the game, defensively, it’s hard to win. We actually had no chance to win.”

on USC’s second half
“Yeah, I just went over that. They made 16 of 23, 5 of 8 [from 3-point range]. We’re not a good defensive team. I just gave them credit, but then I’m now going to tell you, I’m not making excuses for our guys, it’s trained or untrained. They’ve been trained enough by now. The bottom line is if you can’t guard the guy with the ball, he continually either shoots it and makes it in your face or he goes by you. Then you’re in a rotation and they tip it in because you’re in a defensive rotation. When they had their second-chance points, couple in a row, because guys are getting beat off the dribble. Your big guys are rotating. We really struggle to stay in front of the basketball. We really struggle to stay in front. And then when we did, like I said, they made some really tough shots when we actually did stay in front of them.”

“We did terrible on defense. Their offensive execution was excellent. They made some tough shots. We can’t guard the ball. That was what happened in the second half.”

on USC’s Nick Rakocevic
“Very good player. He can pass. Although we didn’t make him pass it. We were supposed to attack him on his dribble, and we didn’t do it. He’s a talented offensive player. He’s really talented. He’s a senior, right? I saw him, scouted him all week, he was on the top 50 players in college basketball at the start of the year. I really don’t know his numbers from last year. He’s a very offensively-skilled player. He did a lot of things.”

UCLA redshirt senior guard Prince Ali
on UCLA’s second-half defense
“I think we had some defensive screw-ups. They started getting the ball in the paint and getting a lot of second chance points. That helped them out and that helped them with their confidence. They just started making a bunch of shots and won the game.”

on if UCLA’s defensive struggles in the second half broke the team’s spirit
“It’s tough, man. They went on a little run. We were working on keeping our heads up. I wouldn’t say it broke our spirit, because we kept fighting towards the end. So, I wouldn’t say it broke our spirit, but we gave them a cushion that I don’t think they should have gotten. I don’t think we played the way we should have played, so yeah it’s tough.”

UCLA junior guard Chris Smith
on if this loss stings more, given that it came at home versus USC
“Every loss stings. You definitely don’t want to lose at home. You definitely don’t want to lose to your rivals. We did both tonight. I’d say that this one stings maybe a little more, just because of the politics and what not, but every loss stings.”

on where he feels this team is, three games into Pac-12 play
“I feel like we started off on a great note and then just regressed back to what we were before the Washington game. Our defense has regressed, rebounding – two things that we need to do well in order to win any game, so I think we just regressed.”

USC head coach Andy Enfield
opening remarks
“We really played well in the second half. We shot 67 percent. Our players really moved the ball well and we took some great shots. We really took care of the ball. The press kind of bothered us, but it allowed us to score in transition. This is a big win for us. They are an exceptionally talented team. They’ve got great size. This is a great win for us, especially on the road. They have a lot of talent over there.”

on freshman Onyeka Okongwu’s performance
“He had two quick fouls and that kind of took him out of this rhythm. UCLA played great defense. They really prevented him from getting some touches.”

on senior Nick Rakocevic’s performance
“Nick really played like he is capable of. He was disappointed on how he played on the road trip [at the Washington schools.] I was happy for him to bounce back, especially after his performance against Washington. He really played like a senior tonight.”

on where the Trojans go from here, with Cal and Stanford coming to L.A.
“Eight of our last 10 games have been on the road, so we are going to go home and try to hold home-court advantage. In this league, anybody and can beat anybody on any given night. We are really fortunate to beat UCLA tonight.”

USC senior forward Nick Rakocevic
on how he bounced back from the last game at Washington
“That’s just a part of college basketball. You take one game at a time. I probably played one of my worst games against Washington and tonight, I probably played one of my best. We have to move on and forget about the bad games.”

on how he was able to get inside shots
“He [Okongwu] struggled because he was in foul trouble. That can take a toll on you mentally. We are going to definitely need Big O down the line during the season.”

about the UCLA-USC rivalry
“I really wanted this [win] bad. This game, being a rivalry game, and me not being from here, so I didn’t know how big it is. I’m from Chicago, but it was really important to me to get this win.”

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