USC head coach Andy Enfield is sure going to be glad to see Norman Powell graduate after this season. For the second year in a row at the Galen Center, Powell sparked a UCLA offensive onslaught to open the second half.
Last season when UCLA visited, USC watched a halftime lead quickly disappear. The Bruins opened with a 10-0 start that was part of a 24-5 run and never looked back. Wednesday night, UCLA used a 23-5 run that traversed halftime on its way to a dominant 83-66 victory.
Powell scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half to propel the Bruins this time after he poured in 10 of his 21 points in a three and a half minute span last season.
”Powell took over the game. He used his skill. He’s first team all-league in my book,” Enfield said. “When they shoot the ball as well as they did tonight, they’re tough to beat.”
-- BREAKING IT DOWN --
Key moment(s): Deja Vu. After trailing by as many as eight in the first half, USC went on a 21-10 run to take a three-point lead with 2:48 remaining in the first half — it proved to be the Trojans’ biggest and final lead of the game.
UCLA scored the final eight points of the half to take a 36-31 lead into the break, but the Bruins didn’t let up there. They piled up a 15-2 run to open the second half for a combined 23-2 run that turned a jubilant Galen Center crowd into a Texas nightfall — nothing but crickets.
Saving 20+ Face. While Wednesday night’s game was a blowout, it could have looked even worse if not for Malik Marquetti helping the Trojans save face a little bit in the final minute. The freshman from Compton (Calif.) Millikan knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to trim the final margin to 17 points, which is actually a little more than three points fewer than Steve Alford’s average margin of victory over Andy Enfield’s USC teams. That’s not a good look, but getting blown out by more than 20 would have been an even worse look.
Player of the Game: Nikola Jovanovic. The only Trojan that showed up to play seemed to be Nikola Jovanovic. The 6-foot-11 Serbian scored 14 points in the first half on the way to a 20-point, five-rebound performance. He obviously could have done more on the boards, but so could every player wearing a USC uniform.
Jovanovic had a little bit different task against Tony Parker and Kevon Looney. He attacked a little bit more from the perimeter, putting the ball on the floor and trying to go by the bulkier Parker, but he did a good job. Despite handling the ball on the perimeter more, he only had one turnover. He still did the majority of his damage in the paint, scoring 14 of his 16 points from the field in the lane.
Jovanovic has really stepped up his game and become the player Andy Enfield raved about before the season. He’s scored 10+ points in 12 straight games and is shooting at least 50 percent in every game now.
Post-Game Player(s) Interview: Sophomore forwards Darion Clark and Nikola Jovanovic talk about the loss and how the Trojans were able to get bullied by the Bruins down low:
Most Spectacular Play(s): ”Give Me Them Cookies.” With the Trojans trying to battle back from their horrendous second half start, it was all about getting the lead down to single digits. Jordan McLaughlin did just that and did it in style. Shortly after UCLA backup guard Noah Allen checked into the game, McLaughlin used some quick hands to reach around Allen as he turned his back to change directions.
McLaughlin knocked the ball free, picked up the loose ball and took it the distance, slamming the ball home to cut the Bruins lead down to nine points. However, it was short lived. UCLA soon went on an 8-2 run and the Trojans never threatened to get back to single digits.
Unsung Hero: Katin Reinhardt. Last game’s “Step It Up,” was Wednesday’s unsung hero. Reinhardt showed flashes of the player everyone was expecting USC to be getting in the first half against UCLA. When the Trojans fell behind 18-10, Reinhardt got them back in the game with back-to-back 3-pointers followed by a long two-point jumper that he drained. Suddenly, Reinhardt had 10 points and USC was on its way to a 21-10 run..
Reinhardt is known as a shooter, but his shooting has been what’s struggled this year. The difference against UCLA was that Reinhardt was getting some shots with his feet set. When his feet are set toward the basket, he is a much better shooter because then it becomes it simplifies the process to the same simple shot he has when shooting around. Too often, it has been leaning floaters or quick catch and shoots from the wing with initial passes from the top of the key rather than from the low post that force him to turn his body after receiving the pass.
After scoring 10 points in the first half, Reinhardt was silent in the second half. The positive from a scoreless half is that Reinhardt only took/missed one shot. He didn’t try to force the ball or any shots despite playing 16 minutes. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come.
"Step It Up:" Freshman Funk. Outside of Malik Marquetti, the freshman class had a rough night. Jordan McLaughlin, Malik Martin and Elijah Stewart combined to shoot 5-for-21. McLaughlin scored eight points in his first start since injuring his right shoulder. He did do a good job of distributing the basketball, collecting six assists. He also had three steals. Martin didn’t score (0-for-3). He grabbed six rebounds, had two assists, a block and a steal, but he also had three turnovers.
But the biggest concern is the continued struggles of Elijah Stewart. Stewart has not been the same player since his monster performance against Boston College. In six games since his 22 points on 10-for-10 shooting outing, Stewart has scored just 20 points on 5-for-23 shooting.
”He’s improving…slowly. He made a three tonight, but we do need production off our bench.” said Andy Enfield slowly, seemingly grasping to find something positive to say. “Elijah is right there with some of his teammates where they need to produce and make shots.”
Following the Boston College game, Enfield said they needed Stewart to step up and be a second or third consistent scorer for the Trojans to help them be successful. Unfortunately, he has done nothing of the sort. And has struggled shooting the ball.
Post-Game Coach Interview: Andy Enfield talks about the Trojans' defensive struggles and being bested by Norman Powell again:
Key stat(s): 41-20 UCLA bullied the Trojans on the boards and absolutely dominated the glass. The Bruins doubled up the home team’s rebounding effort. That is astounding when you consider USC had won the rebounding battle in 11 of the last 12 games and 12 of its first 16 this season. Kevon Looney led UCLA with 10 boards to go with 12 points, but it was the nine-rebound effort, including four on the offensive end, of guard Isaac Hamilton that really stands out.
70.6. For the third straight game, USC shot above 70 percent on free throws. The most impressive turnaround has come from Darion Clark. He went 5-for-7 against UCLA and was 10-for-13 during USC’s homestead. In just three games, Clark raised his 39.5 percent free throw shooting to 49.0 percent.
62.5. UCLA basically hit every shot it took in the second half. Of course, most of those were layups in the paint or wide-open 3-pointers thanks to USC’s decision to forgo defense after halftime, making UCLA’s 62.5 percent shooting feasible.
56.5 For the game, the Bruins shot 56.5 percent from the floor. That’s the second highest percentage this season behind the 56.9 Utah shot. You won’t win games if the opponent shoots 56 percent.
12. Nikola Jovanovic has now scored in double figures in 12 consecutive games after producing 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Too bad none of those points came in the final seven minutes of the game after USC had trimmed the lead down to nine points.
50. Nikola Jovanovic shot below 50 percent in each of the first seven games this season. He has shot at or above 50 percent in all 10 games since.
10. Congratulations to Malik Marquetti, who set a new career high with 10 points scored thanks to 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the three-point arc.
Quote(s) of the Night:
“We just got to be tougher. It’s simple as that….They killed us on the boards. They punked us.” — USC redshirt sophomore captain forward Darion Clark
Where They Stand: The Trojans are now 9-8 on the season and 1-4 in conference play. With eight days off before playing again, expect a lot of hard-nosed practices for USC prior to its road trip to play Oregon next Thursday at 8 p.m. PST. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
Spotted: Kiss Cam found former Stanford forward Dwight Powell last game. On Wednesday night, it was USC’s beloved swagster Nick Young. “Swaggy P” showed up at halftime with rapper/pop star girlfriend Iggy Azalea. The two were featured on the Kiss Cam and showed their goofy side. Azalea chose to lick Young’s cheek before Young swallowed her in his arms and forced kisses upon her, much to the enjoyment of the crowd and a smiling Azalea.
Also in attendance were USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and a couple of his right-hand men, J.K. McKay and Steve Lopes. Trojan great receiver John Jackson took in the game as did former Gonzaga and Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf, who was once again in attendance.Shotgun Spratling has covered USC athletics since 2009. You can follow him on Twitter at @ShotgunSpr or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.