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).