USC didn't get off to the best start on Wednesday, allowing five turnovers in the first few minutes of the game, UCLA not turning the ball over once.
But with 6:49 to go in the first half the Trojans took over the lead, fueled by a 10-0 run, and didn't look back. They went into halftime leading 38-30.
With 13 minutes left in the second half USC was up by as many as 15 points but the lead wouldn't last. Senior guard Jio Fontan, who led the Trojans with 15 points and 6 assists, found himself with four fouls and on the bench, allowing UCLA to go on a run of their own.
With 30 seconds left in the game the Bruins tied it at 65 to send it to overtime.
"We took it right down the end of regulation," Cantu said after the game.
The momentum seemed to be all UCLA, but USC traded buckets with the Bruins until the clock started winding to the final seconds forcing the Bruins to foul.
"When we needed a basket we got it," Cantu said. "When we needed to get it inbounds we got it in."
USC held on to win 75-71, improving to 9-13 overall, 4-5 in Pac-12 Conference action, and 2-3 under interim head coach Bob Cantu.
"The thing I liked about it the most was the guys hung in there," Cantu said. "The guys stayed poised, stayed committed, and we told them that to win on the road you have to have tremendous focus and play through things."
"We just did a good job of staying composed," Fontan said after the game, "and making sure we were under control and made some good plays in overtime,
Fontan and Fuller lead the way
The USC basketball team has come to expect great play and leadership from senior Jio Fontana and Fontan once again delivered on Wednesday. The unexpected hero of the night, however, was senior forward Aaron Fuller.
Fontan and Fuller finished tied for the team high with 15 points each. Fuller's 15 came off the bench, "Aaron Fuller was tremendous," Cantu said after the game. Fuller also grabbed six rebounds. "We all had to do our part," Fuller said after the game. "When I came in I just tried to bring the same intensity and really just crash the boards really hard.
To get this win is amazing," Fuller continued. "Last year we played them three times and lost all three times."
Fontan picked up two fouls in the first half and two more early in the second half before Cantu put him on the bench. With six minutes to go in the game and USC's lead shrinking by the second, Cantu decided to risk Fontan picking up his fifth foul and put his senior leader back in the game. "It was frustrating," Fontan said of his foul trouble. "Luckily Coach Cantu trusted me and let me go back in."
"I kept buying time," Cantu explained, "but we needed his presence out there. He was smart, he played with foul trouble and did a great job."
1-0 in renovated Pauley
The day before their crosstown matchup against rival UCLA, the Trojans talked about their excitement about playing inside the Bruins' renovated Pauley Pavilion. Fast forward a little over 24 hours and USC seemed to even surprise itself, defeating the Bruins in their house 75-71.
"This is my last and my first game in this building so I wanted to go out with a win," Fontan said.
By the numbers
USC shot 47.7% against UCLA while holding the Bruins to 38.2%, their second lowest shooting percentage of the season.
The Trojans turned the ball over 17 times compared to only forcing the Bruins to turn the ball over 7 times.
USC outrebounded UCLA 44 – 36.