Sunday, March 22, 2020

LA Times Mar 22, 2020: UCLA championship 1995 revisited

Twenty-five years ago, ‘Little Hoop’ and Tyus Edney launched UCLA’s run to its last NCAA title

LA times 
MARCH 21, 2020
7 AM

Little Hoop was a pain.
Tyus and Russell Edney would lug the thing out of their Long Beach home every time they wanted to play basketball in the driveway, the young brothers hooking the wood backboard and metal rim to the gutter above their garage.
Little Hoop could be dangerous.
The basket occasionally fell, once plunking Tyus on the head and requiring several stitches. There was no telling how many busted lips and sprained ankles the boys sustained.
Little Hoop didn’t seem to enhance their game.
A young Tyus Edney, left, plays on “Little Hoop” (seen in the background) with neighborhood friends Jermaine Wilson and Hoang Do during the mid-1980s.
(Courtesy of Tyus Edney)

The basket stood just a touch over 6 feet off the ground. The rim wasn’t regulation size. The boys had to use a miniature ball.
Hank Edney used to come home from work and cringe whenever he saw his sons playing on the thing.
“You guys spend too much time on that Little Hoop,” Hank would say, using the nickname they had all given it. “It’s going to mess up your form and your shots and everything.”
If nothing else, everybody agreed that it forced the boys to get creative, especially little Tyus. He would drive toward the basket, confronted by the flailing arms of a brother two years older and just as many inches taller. Pump-fakes, scoops and hooks all became part of the arsenal of the jitterbug point guard who would go on to star for Long Beach Poly High and UCLA.
He had no choice.
“You had to come up with all these different little shots to get the shot off,” Tyus said, “and kind of one of my things that I learned how to do was shooting it around arms.”
It was here on this driveway basket, Tyus’ torso twisting, his body suspended in midair, his hand releasing the ball just inches above hostile fingertips, that the most iconic shot in UCLA basketball history was born, nurtured and perfected.
“I think I’ve seen that shot on that Little Hoop,” Russell Edney said of a basketball prayer that would be answered 25 years ago this weekend, “about 10 or 15 times.”
Kids often mimic their heroes making last-second shots, the scene having played out countless times in backyards, driveways and parks across the country. This was Tyus making his own play, years before he knew what it might become.
The game was over. The season was lost. The misery was enduring.
UCLA, winner of a record 10 national basketball championships, seemed cursed on that March 1995 day inside Boise State University Pavilion.
The top-seeded and heavily favored Bruins found themselves trailing by one point and down to their final, longshot chance during a second-round NCAA tournament game after Missouri’s Julian Winfield made a contested layup with 4.8 seconds left.
As the Tigers poured onto the court in celebration, a timeout halting play, the Bruins contemplated another premature finish amid a two-decade title drought that showed no sign of abating.
“When Missouri made that basket, five guys called timeout and they all riveted 10 eyes right through me.”
“The prominent thought in my mind was, I can’t believe our season’s going to end like this,” said Bob Myers, then a Bruins benchwarmer who would go on to become a part-time starter and much later general manager of the Golden State Warriors. “We were the No. 1 overall seed, we had a wonderful year, we had great character, we had great leadership and coaching and I just felt like it was one of those moments in life where I was thinking, this isn’t right, this isn’t fair, this isn’t how it should be.”
Jim Harrick was familiar with that feeling.
The UCLA coach had made it past the regional semifinal round of the NCAA tournament only one time in 10 previous trips with the Bruins and Pepperdine. In 1983, when he coached the Waves, his team had lost a six-point lead with 57 seconds left in overtime during what became a gruesome double-overtime loss to eventual national champion North Carolina State.
Only a year before UCLA sought a miracle finish against Missouri, the Bruins, as a No. 5 seed, had fallen in the first round to No. 12 Tulsa.
All seemed lost again as Harrick’s players fixed their gaze on the coach while walking toward the timeout huddle.
“When Missouri made that basket,” remembered Harrick, now 81, “five guys called time out and they all riveted 10 eyes right through me.”
The coach had a plan. It would involve not his team’s best player but its smallest and its speediest, a 5-foot-10 point guard specially equipped to make this sort of play.
Edney had found himself in a similar spot just two years earlier, albeit completely unscripted.
He stole the ball at midcourt in the final seconds of a second-round West Regional game against Michigan, the score tied and UCLA needing a basket to win. Edney drove toward the rim, hoping for a layup, but found Juwan Howard, the Wolverines’ towering 6-9 forward, in his way.
Edney passed to teammate Ed O’Bannon, who was not expecting the ball. The pass was stolen, the Bruins went on to lose in overtime and Harrick would lament that he had wanted Edney to shoot.
Over the years, Harrick made his players practice frantic end-of-game situations, running a drill in which each of them dribbled the length of the court against a defender in six seconds or less. It usually didn’t go well, players either losing the ball out of bounds in their hurry or missing the shot.
“None of them could do it,” Harrick said, “except Edney.”
The coach made a high-pitched noise, indicating why the hard-charging dynamo was specially equipped to pull it off.
“Zoop-zoop-zoop, like a roadrunner,” Harrick said. “Zoop-zoop-zoop, zoop-zoop-zoop.”
Edney, the fleetest player on the team, had been doing this sort of thing since taking his talents from the home driveway to youth league games at Victoria Park gym in Carson.
It didn’t always result in heroic finishes.
“At Victoria Park, he used to dribble through everybody, he’d come down and look spectacular and then miss the shot,” said Hank Edney, who was his sons’ first coach. “I said, ‘Tyus, I don’t care how good you look coming up the court and how many people you go around. If you don’t make that basket, it doesn’t mean anything.’ ”
The degree of difficulty rarely matched what Tyus faced in his own driveway, where the rules for playing on Little Hoop were strictly enforced. Goaltending was closely monitored because the rim was shorter than some of the neighborhood kids who came over for two-on-two battles. Dunking was not allowed except on breakaway plays, for fear of the whole thing crashing down on a contested shot at the rim.
Said Tyus: “Every score was hard. You had to really get creative.”
Said Russell: “You couldn’t pretty much do a regular layup because the ball was small and there wasn’t a lot of space. In order to get the shot off, you would have to do like little circus shots and if you didn’t get it off correctly, you could get it blocked to your neighbor’s house.”
Some of the neighborhood kids preferred Little Hoop to the regulation basket on a court around the corner. Games stretched into the night, illuminated by a porch-light bulb. The Edney boys wouldn’t even let a motor home parked in the driveway stop them, hoisting shots from either side of it.
Hank’s cynicism toward his driveway basket softened during another game at the Victoria Park gym when he saw his son make an inventive move.
“I said, ‘I’ve seen that move before,’ ” Hank said. “That’s a move I saw on Little Hoop.’ ”
He would see it again.
As he gave orders in the timeout huddle, seeking a savior in those final seconds against Missouri, Harrick had a job for each player.
“I sat them down, and I said, ‘All right, you in the corner, you in the corner, you on the wing, you on the wing,’ ” Harrick recalled, ticking off the responsibilities of everyone except his point guard.
The onus would fall on Edney.
“I wanted one guy to take it down,” Harrick said, “and I told Tyus I wanted him to take it the length of the floor, they’re not going to foul you, take it to the rim and let’s see what happens.”
Coming out of the huddle, Harrick walked out onto the court, his arm draped around Edney. The coach repeated his request so that there would be no doubt.
“I kind of yelled at him,” Harrick said. “I said, ‘Tyus, do you have a crystal-clear understanding of what I said?’ ”
Replied Edney: “Yes, you want me to shoot the ball.”
It wasn’t the last order Edney would hear as the Bruins drifted out of their coach’s earshot.
“Give me the damn ball!” O’Bannon, the team’s top scorer and emotional leader who would become the consensus national player of the year, yelled at Edney. “I want the ball!”
Edney nodded softly at the conflicting agendas, unsure how it would all play out.
Fate seemed to be smiling on the Bruins even before Cameron Dollar’s inbounds pass from the baseline. Harrick scanned the court and noticed that Missouri counterpart Norm Stewart had not inserted either Sammy or Simeon Haley, the Tigers’ 7-foot, shot-blocking twins.
“By then it was almost a second-nature thing; it was like, oh, well, his arms are up, I’ll just shoot around him.”
Edney knew the most important thing was not getting slowed on his way to the basket from the backcourt. If he encountered a trap, he would have to dribble through it.
He gathered the pass from Dollar in stride and took three dribbles before reaching midcourt while facing token pressure because Missouri did not want to foul him and put him on the free-throw line. Edney made a behind-the-back move as he zipped into the frontcourt, changing directions to elude the initial defense.
Three more dribbles followed as Edney reached the paint and more defenders converged upon him. As he neared the basket, Edney was confronted by the long arms of Derek Grimm, Missouri’s 6-9 forward.
All those crazy shots on Little Hoop had prepared Edney for the biggest moment of his basketball career.
“By then it was almost a second-nature thing; it was like, oh, well, his arms are up, I’ll just shoot around him,” Edney said with a chuckle. “Even though it was on a different scale, it was still an instinctual type of thing.”
Edney pushed off with his left leg, twisted his body around Grimm and released his four-foot shot just above the defender’s fingertips. The ball banked off the backboard, bouncing off the front of the rim before falling through the net as the buzzer sounded.
“YEEAAHHH!” the crowd exhaled as Edney’s teammates poured onto the floor to engulf him after the 75-74 win. Myers was the first to arrive, wrapping his arms around Edney and lifting him from behind as Edney raised his arms in triumph.
“He’s the hero,” Myers said, “and I’m just the guy that was happy that he had got us through that game and we could keep playing.”
UCLA would not face another challenge like this on the way to hanging its 11th national championship banner, winning its last four games by an average of 12 points and every game by at least six. The Bruins would beat Arkansas by 11 in the title game in Seattle with Edney limited to just 2½ minutes because of a sprained wrist he sustained two days earlier.
His shot would live on for eternity, the defining moment of Harrick’s coaching career and a memory that continues to resonate for its creator a quarter of a century later. Edney was stuck in a crush of shoppers at the grocery store last week amid the novel coronavirus pandemic when he detected the steady gaze of the middle-aged man behind him in line.

“Hey, what’s your name, man?” the stranger finally asked.
“Tyus Edney.”
“I thought so, I thought so.”
It was a sequence that has played out numerous times over the years for Edney, now the director of engagement for UCLA’s athletic department. What comes next is equally predictable.
“They’re like, ‘Oh!’ ” Edney said, repeating the dialogue. “Four-point-eight! The shot!”
Yes, the shot. It seemed as if everybody had seen it before.

la times
MARCH 21, 2020
7 AM

UCLA began the 1994-95 college basketball season ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press poll. The Bruins quickly showed they were championship contenders, winning 18 of their first 20 games (a loss to California was later overturned by the NCAA), and were ranked No. 2 when freshman guard Toby Bailey was inserted into the starting lineup on Feb. 21, 1995, for a game against Stanford.
With the 6-foot-5 Bailey as a starter, the Bruins went 13-0 to finish the season on a 19-game win streak. In the NCAA title game against Arkansas, Bailey made 12 of 20 shots, scored 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds. 

Click box below to enlarge

Where are they now? A look at UCLA’s 1995 NCAA men’s basketballchampionship team

LA times
MARCH 21, 2020
7:11 AM

A look at the players and coaches on the 1995 UCLA men’s basketball team and what they are doing 25 years later.
G Toby Bailey — THEN: Offensive sparkplug moved into the starting lineup late in the season. NOW: Professional basketball agent who works alongside fellow former Bruin Mitchell Butler.
G Marquis Burns — THEN: Reserve suffered a back injury against George Mason in December and transferred to New Mexico State in midseason. NOW: Works in information technology for Coca-Cola in Southern California.
F Kevin Dempsey — THEN: Sharpshooter who got limited playing time off the bench. NOW: Bay Area chef.
G Cameron Dollar — THEN: Tyus Edney’s backup who capably filled in during the national championship game against Arkansas. NOW: Washington assistant coach under Mike Hopkins.
G Tyus Edney — THEN: Made the shot of a lifetime to sustain the Bruins’ national championship hopes. NOW: Director of engagement for the UCLA athletic department.
C Omm’A Givens — THEN: Backup to George Zidek. NOW: Lyft driver in San Francisco.
F J.R. Henderson — THEN: The versatility to play all five positions made him indispensable, even as a freshman. NOW: Having changed his name to J.R. Sakuragi, he’s a center for the Aisin Seahorses of the Japan Basketball League.
F Kris Johnson — THEN: Freshman played a smattering of minutes in 21 games off the bench. NOW: Runs several business ventures and youth showcases while also working as a basketball broadcaster.
F Bob Myers — THEN: Walk-on practice player who would become a significant contributor later in his college career. NOW: General manager of the Golden State Warriors.
C Ike Nwankwo — THEN: Backed up Zidek. NOW: Runs a basketball academy in Thailand and brings players to the UCLA camp every summer.
F Charles O’Bannon — THEN: Started every game and defended opponent’s best offensive player. NOW: Assistant coach at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High who recently moved to Seattle to become a personal trainer.
F Ed O’Bannon — THEN: The Bruins’ emotional leader, top scorer and most talented player. NOW: Probation officer in Las Vegas. Championed college athlete causes with his antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of athlete image in video games and support of the California law that will allow players to receive endorsement deals.
C George Zidek — THEN: Strong post defender who could also run and shoot, with a dependable hook shot. NOW: Broadcaster for Euroleague games described by Jim Harrick as “kind of the Jay Bilas of the Czech Republic.”
Head coach Jim Harrick — Assistant coach at Cal State Northridge
Assistant Mark Gottfriend — Head coach at Cal State Northridge
Assistant Steve Lavin — Analyst at Fox Sports
Assistant Lorenzo Romar — Head coach at Pepperdine

Monday, March 9, 2020

USC beats UCLA at Galen 54-52 on a last-second Jonah Matthews 3. Bruins (12-6, 19-12) end regular season in 2nd place in the Pac-12 behind Oregon.

Pac-12 Networks

Trojans' senior Jonah Mathews capped a thriller in Los Angeles with a stepback three with 1 second remaining to lift USC men's basketball to a 54-52 victory versus UCLA on Saturday. Pac-12 Networks' Mike Yam and Earl Watson breakdown the rivalry game that helped USC clinch a first round bye in the 2020 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament. Mathews finished with a game-high 19 points and moved to first on the Trojans all-time 3-point list with 247. The loss locks the Bruins into the number two seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.

24:39 worth of highlights from Matthew Loves Ball

from Mike Regalado BRO

Mathews, USC snap UCLA's 7-game streak on last-second 3

from the AP via LOS ANGELES -- Jonah Mathews envisioned the possibilities in his head the night before: becoming USC's career 3-point shooting leader, beating UCLA in his final home game as a senior, hitting the winning shot.
Then he went out and did it.
Mathews hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 1 second remaining on senior day, helping Southern California edge UCLA 54-52 on Saturday and end the Bruins' seven-game winning streak.
"I knew it was going in before I let it go," Mathews said of his step-back 3. "This is a dagger to their heart. I know it's going to stick with them forever; it's going to stick with me forever."
The Bruins (19-12, 12-6 Pac-12) came into the game tied for first with Oregon. Now they'll have to await the outcome of the Ducks' game against Stanford later Saturday. A victory would give the Ducks the title outright; a loss would allow UCLA to claim a share of its first league title since 2013.
"It took a great shot by Jonah Mathews to beat us," first-year UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. "We almost came in here on the road and pulled one out and they have NBA players on that team. We've come a long way and our season isn't over."
Mathews scored 19 points to lead the Trojans (22-9, 11-7), who tied for third in the league standings. He made five 3-pointers, becoming USC's career leader with 247. Onyeka Okongwu added 16 points.
"He's our senior captain," Okongwu said of Mathews. "We look up to him. We trust him fully."
Mathews' game-winning shot triggered a raucous celebration, with fans rushing onto the court.
"My teammates swarmed me, the gym was going insane," said Mathews, who is from nearby Santa Monica and had family and friends on hand. "To end it this way, you can't really ask for anything else. I'm super grateful."
UCLA had its chances against the Trojans. It was a close game throughout, with neither team leading by more than five points.
Trailing 51-50, Chris Smith passed to Jake Kyman, who fell down while backing up near the Bruins' bench for the turnover with 30 seconds to go.
"That's on me," Smith said. "Jake slipped coming off a screen. I should have taken an extra dribble and not passed the ball, but the floor was slippery and he fell."
USC inbounded the ball under heavy pressure and Smith drew his fifth foul, sending Okongwu to the line. The freshman missed both. The Trojans missed 6 of 10 free throws over the final 4 1/2 minutes, with Mathews responsible for three of them.
"Jonah missed those free throws to make that last shot," USC coach Andy Enfield joked. "An amazing way to finish his career at home."
Cody Riley made a pair of free throws to put the Bruins ahead 52-51 with nine seconds left, their first lead since early in the second half. Riley led the Bruins with 13 points off the bench. Smith finished with 12 points.
"To lose a game like that hurts a lot," Riley said. "We had the lead with nine seconds left and we needed one more stop, but we didn't get that."
UCLA: The Bruins had already locked up a first-round bye in next week's Pac-12 Tournament. Unless they win the tournament and earn its automatic berth, however, they could miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. "I don't know who we'll play in our first game in the tournament but we're going to punk them," Smith said. "I hope we play USC again and I hope they come in cocky. We'll be ready for them."
USC: The win allowed the Trojans to clinch a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. "Going into the tourney we have supreme confidence," Mathews said. "We're going to be hard to beat on a neutral floor." They finished 14-2 at home, including 10-1 in their last 11. They completed a season sweep of the Bruins, having won 74-63 in Westwood on Jan. 11. They improved to 18-1 when holding opponents under 70 points.
The Trojans shot the same 41% from the floor, 3-point range and free throw line.
"I don't think I've ever seen that," Enfield said.
Okongwu said, "This could be my last game at Galen." He said he thought back about his season on his way to the game. He could decide to leave early for the NBA draft. "It's been a fun ride, but it's not over yet," he said.
Both teams compete in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

LA times 
MARCH 7, 2020
10:35 PM

The tenuous tournament fates of two desperate crosstown rivals hung in the balance Saturday afternoon, as USC coach Andy Enfield pulled his senior captain aside with nine seconds remaining against UCLA.
The teams, separated by just a dozen miles of freeway, had taken entirely different paths to this make-or-break moment, with a capacity crowd at Galen Center roaring and a tension in the air. So many twists and turns had led them here. Now, with a Pac-12 title at stake for UCLA and the postseason prospects of both possibly on the line, USC’s coach turned to Jonah Mathews and told him to decide where it all went from here.
“I’m putting the ball in your hands,” Enfield told the 6-foot-3 guard during a timeout, “and we’re going to live or die.”
Mathews had dreamed of this very moment as he lay awake the night before, fantasizing of a final, extraordinary shot to end his four years at USC. He’d never hit a game-winner before.
But as Onyeka Okongwu set a high ball screen and UCLA switched, as Mathews jabbed forward, then stepped back, he knew as it left his fingertips.
“We gonna live today,” Matthews said with a smile, shortly after his three-point shot with one second left swished and a 54-52 win over UCLA was secured, along with a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. And with Saturday’s buzzer-beating victory, the Trojans should be considered safely in the NCAA tournament field.
As Matthews sunk that final shot, his wrist still suspended well after it landed, the sudden desperation of the Bruins’ tournament future also came into focus. A Bruins win would’ve been an exclamation point on an extraordinary turnaround, an 8-9 start somehow transformed into a shared Pac-12 title.
Mick Cronin knew the fate of that magical run now rested in Mathews’ hands. He had come alive in the second half, scoring 15 of his game-high 19 points after the break. So the UCLA coach put his most athletic defender, Jules Bernard, on Mathews and expected the screen.
It was no use. “The guy just made a big-time shot,” Cronin said.
There was little solace for UCLA (19-12, 12-6 Pac-12), which now presumably must win games in the Pac-12 tournament to secure its place in the NCAA tournament. The Bruins hadn’t shot this poorly (31%) all season, or lost a game in which they held an opponent to fewer than 74 points.
Over their seven-game win streak, the Bruins had forgotten what it was like to lose. They had always clawed their way back, piling up five second-half comebacks over that stretch. They were nine seconds from another after Cody Riley gave them a one-point lead with two free throws.
“Seven games in a row,” forward Chris Smith said. “I don’t recall how this feels. Yeah, I don’t like it.”
The mood was far different in the USC locker room, where water bottles were emptied in a frenzied celebration. The Trojans (22-9, 11-7) ultimately finished behind the Bruins in the Pac-12 race, but for now, that hardly mattered.
“We’re going into the tournament with supreme confidence,” Mathews said.
That’s certainly the case for Mathews, who led the Trojans in scoring in each of their last three games, all of which came against teams that were ahead of them in the conference.
A bye in the Pac-12 tournament should help matters as well. USC opens conference tournament play Thursday against the winner between Arizona and Washington. UCLA will play the winner between Stanford and Cal.
“We believe we can go in and compete next week,” Enfield said. “Our offense is extremely streaky for a variety of reasons. But we have 22 wins because of our defense.”
That defense was on full display Saturday, as USC patrolled the paint, limiting UCLA to 10 made shots inside the arc.
“We really put ourselves in a hole offensively,” Cronin said.
Before halftime, USC wasn’t doing much better. The Trojans shot just 31% in the first half, while UCLA stifled their star freshman, Okongwu.
Okongwu, who scored a season-low four points in the first meeting between the teams, barely touched the ball for the game’s first 11 minutes, as the Bruins played him tough in the post.
But Okongwu resolved to be more aggressive and wound up scoring 12 of 15 USC points spanning the first and second halves. USC followed his lead, shooting 57% after halftime. Okongwu finished with 16 points.
Still, UCLA hung around until the bitter end, as Mathews missed two free throws that might have iced the game. As the senior missed the first, he laughed, as if he knew how it all would end.
“Jonah missed those free throws, I think, on purpose to set up that last shot,” Enfield joked.
Riley, who led UCLA with 13 points, made five of six free throws, including the two that gave the Bruins a 52-51 lead. Then, with just seconds remaining, Mathews lifted up for a shot he’ll never forget.
“This is a dagger in their heart,” Mathews said. “I know it’s going to stick with them forever. It’s going to stick with me forever too. To do it in a packed house, last game in Galen — it’s something you can’t even dream of.”

UCLA’s offense kicks into low, low gear in loss to Trojans

lA times
MARCH 7, 2020
6:31 PM

Ugh. Blech. Yuck.
Pick your expression of disgust. All applied to UCLA’s offense on an afternoon when its usually stout defense and resilience kept the Bruins in a cross-town rivalry game that otherwise wouldn’t have made room for any drama in the final seconds.
Passes were thrown out of bounds. Layups were missed. A pushoff resulted in an offensive foul and a turnover.
There was plenty to be annoyed about Saturday afternoon at the Galen Center well before Jonah Mathews’ three-pointer with one second left nudged USC to a 54-52 victory, ending the Bruins’ month long joy ride as well as any hopes of winning the Pac-12 Conference’s regular-season title outright.
“Our execution just wasn’t there,” UCLA guard Chris Smith said after having to watch the final 27 seconds from the bench because he fouled out.
Mathews held his shooting arm aloft in delight for several seconds as he skipped around the court after sinking the Bruins and their seven-game winning streak.
For UCLA, there was a different set of enduring images on a day it shot a season-low 31.4% and committed nine of its 12 turnovers in the second half.
There was coach Mick Cronin, furiously pointing to direct an offense that appeared unsure how to attack the Trojans’ body-checking, pack-it-in defense.
There was point guard Tyger Campbell, holding out his arms in frustration after throwing a pass intended for teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. out of bounds.
Most memorably, there was shooting guard Jake Kyman on his backside after his team’s final slip became painfully literal.
Kyman, the player the Bruins wanted to shoot while trailing by one point coming out of a timeout with 39 seconds left, was open on the wing after coming around a screen. Smith saw Kyman moving into unguarded territory and threw him the ball. Kyman stumbled and fell backward, the ball sailing over him and out of bounds.
“I should’ve taken a dribble because if I would’ve taken a dribble, if he would’ve fallen like he did, I could’ve still kept possession of the ball,” Smith said. “So I feel bad about myself.”
The Bruins eventually took a 52-51 lead that was attributable to everything besides their offense. USC’s Onyeka Okongwu missed two free throws before the Trojans’ Ethan Anderson fouled UCLA’s Cody Riley while fighting for a rebound with nine seconds left. Riley, who scored a team-high 13 points off the bench, made the first free throw and then the second after USC called time out.
Those free throws didn’t matter because of Mathews’ heroics but wouldn’t have been necessary had the Bruins had any success on offense.
“We really put ourselves in a hole offensively,” Cronin said after his team lost for the first time this season when holding an opponent to 73 points or fewer, having gone 18-0 previously. “We almost found a way to steal a game when we were about as bad as you can be on offense for a long portion of the game and their defense was really good, but we just had plays where we threw the ball out of bounds.”
Redshirt sophomore forward Jalen Hill was the only UCLA player to make more than a third of his shots and that’s because Hill took only one. Jaquez made one of eight shots, Smith four of 12 and Campbell three of 11 while playing with a white wrap on his right hand. Cronin used sophomore guard David Singleton to direct the offense instead of Campbell at times in the second half, citing strategy.
Almost nothing worked, hurting UCLA’s NCAA tournament chances and likely leaving the Bruins (19-12 overall, 12-6 Pac-12) in need of at least one victory in the Pac-12 tournament next week. Second-seeded UCLA will open the tournament Thursday evening at T-Mobile Arena in a quarterfinal against an opponent to be determined.
While Cronin vowed to make offensive fixes before the Bruins’ next game, Smith delivered a message to his teammates in the locker room about unleashing a different brand of basketball in the conference tournament.
“I said, ‘I don’t know who we’re playing yet, but I feel bad for them because they’re gonna get pummeled,’ ” Smith said. “I don’t know what else to say, but we’re taking this all out on them.”

UCLA Men's Basketball Edged at USC, 54-52

LOS ANGELES – The UCLA men's basketball team lost at USC, 54-52, on a last-second 3-point shot by Trojans' senior Jonah Mathews in the regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday afternoon at the Galen Center.

UCLA (19-12, 12-6 Pac-12) had claimed a 52-51 cushion on a pair of free throws made by Cody Riley with nine seconds to play. Mathews' game-winning 3-pointer took place with just one second to play on the clock.

Riley finished with a team-leading 13 points for the Bruins, while Chris Smith totaled 12 points.

Mathews finished with a team-best 19 points for USC (22-9, 11-7). Onyeka Okongwu also scored in double figures for the Trojans, totaling 16 points and six rebounds.

"Credit to USC's defense, but we refused to give up," said Mick Cronin, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men's Head Basketball Coach. "So, we've implemented that in our program, the competitive spirit. And we almost found a way to steal a game when you're about as bad as you can be on offense, for a long portion of the game."

USC led at halftime, 24-22, and pushed its margin to as many as five points with 5:48 to play. UCLA trailed the Trojans, 45-40, before Jaime Jaquez Jr. made a pair of free throws with 5:22 remaining.

After USC's Isaiah Mobley made one of two free throws, giving the Trojans a 46-42 advantage, UCLA's Jake Kyman nailed a 3-pointer to trim USC's lead to one point (46-45).

UCLA kept the margin within four points before a short jump shot by Chris Smith at the 1:15 mark pulled the Bruins to within 51-50.

Both teams committed turnovers on their ensuing offensive possessions, and the Bruins got the ball back with under 25 seconds to go, trailing 51-50. Riley corralled an offensive rebound and was fouled, hitting both free throws with nine seconds to play.

Mathews' game-winning shot with just a second left in regulation allowed USC to sweep the two-game regular-season series against UCLA.

The Bruins will return to action in a quarterfinal matchup of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday, March 12 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

UCLA will face either No. 7-seed Stanford (20-11) or No. 10-seed California (13-18). Stanford and California will play on Wednesday, March 11, in a first-round matchup at 6 p.m.

Postgame Quotes – UCLA at USC

USC 54, UCLA 52
Los Angeles, Calif. (Galen Center)
March 7, 2020

Mick Cronin, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach
on the game-winning shot by Jonah Mathews
“Mathews hit a great shot.”

on how UCLA defended the final play
“They were going to set the screens for him. We had our most athletic big guy switched onto him. The kid made a great shot.”

on the team’s offense
“We really put ourselves in a hole, offensively. In the second half, especially, I know we had eight or nine [turnovers]. And in a possession game, a low-scoring possession, game you cannot have that many turnovers, when it’s a grinder like that. It’s different when it’s 90 to 80.”

on the team being able to stay in the game against USC
“I thought that we were extremely resilient. We’re playing all freshmen or sophomores and Chris [a junior] is in a new role in his career. We did not play well at all on the offensive end. Credit to USC’s defense, but we refused to give up. So, we’ve implemented that in our program – the competitive spirit. And we almost found a way to steal a game when you’re about as bad as you can be on offense, for a long portion of the game. Their defense was really good, but we had plays where we just threw the ball out of bounds and threw it to the other team. I don’t know if it was the crowd, but we had some bad turnovers. But our resiliency and our fight is a reason that we were still in the game, so I’m proud of our guys. It’s been a great run, an unbelievable run. They’ve got tremendous talent. In my opinion, Mathews is a pro. Okongwu is a pro. Rakocevic is a great senior. Mobley is going to play in the NBA. They’re at home. We are the youngest team, other than Stanford, in our league. You know, I’m proud of our fight and our scrap. We did not play well on the offensive end, and I’ve got to clean that up.”

on the Bruins’ defense
“We had our breakdowns on pick and roll defense, behind our pick and roll coverage. It was bad for a stretch. They hurt us on that. For the most part, it was pretty good.”

on David Singleton running some plays at point guard
“Yeah, strategy. Strategy.”

on any disappointment with losing the game today with the Pac-12 title on the line
“I’m not disappointed at all. Unbelievable regular season in my first year, and I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. Could not be more proud of my guys. Sure we wanted to win, it would’ve been great, but our season is not over. I’m here for the long haul. So, really proud of these guys. We almost won a game on the road on Senior Day against a team with NBA players that plays great defense. We’ve come a long way.”

on guarding Jonah Mathews at the end
“We made sure that we switched our biggest and most athletic guy on him. You’ve got to give him credit now. The guy made a step-back three over Jalen Hill. And too many times, people will pick apart what they did, but you’ve got to give the other team credit. The guy made a bigtime shot.”

on any truth to getting a loss out of the way as the team gets into the postseason
“I think that’s a media thing.”

on if there was anybody he thought did play well on offense
“You know, again, that’s on me. I’m the coach and I prepare the guys, and SC’s got a great defense. We struggled with turning the ball over. We didn’t make the extra pass sometimes against their pack-it-in help defense and that hurt us. We put way too much pressure on our defense. And still, we almost found a way to win.”

on Cody Riley making his free throws
“I would tell you what every basketball player who has ever turned themselves into a player would tell you – gym time. You know, a lot of guys tell you that they’d like to become players but they’ll spend all their time trying to get a date or being the funny guy. He spends his time in the gym and it shows. So I am happy for him. The guy lives in the gym.”

on how he’ll handle the next few days with the practice schedule
“We only played one game one week, so we’ll get back to it on Monday. But, it’s not World War Three at practice, at this time of year. We’ve got to clean some things up, offensively. We’ve got to be able to get the ball in the basket better to have a chance to win the Pac-12 Tournament.”

The Box

Last game summary, post-game quotes and The Box from the UCLA Men's Basketball website (link).