USC captain Jordan McLaughlin sat on the bench with a towel draped over his head Wednesday night taking small sips from a water bottle. His teammates were all in the Pauley Pavilion locker room celebrating an 89-75 win over UCLA -- the Trojans' first win in the Crosstown Showdown rivalry since 2013.
But McLaughlin looked like he might need assistance getting to his feet while he waited to make a courtside radio appearance. Despite being sick with headaches, body aches and fatigue since Monday, the Trojans' sophomore leader had played a team-high 35 minutes without complaint.
It wasn't quite The Flu Game, but fittingly, McLaughlin represented Michael Jordan with 23 points -- the number Jordan made famous while with the Chicago Bulls. McLaughlin made half of his shots. He knocked down five-of-eight 3-pointers. He dished out four assists and didn't have a single turnover.
McLaughlin put together his most complete performance and first 20-point outing since breaking his nose early in the non-conference schedule. And he did it while being under the weather. He wouldn't say that he had the flu like Jordan had in 1997, but McLaughlin admitted he felt "terrible" after the game.
But a win over rival UCLA (11-7, 2-3) will likely help McLaughlin feel a bit better. The Trojans ran away with a 14-point victory after building an 18-point halftime lead and withstanding a second half push by the Bruins keyed by senior Tony Parker, who scored a game-high 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting.
USC (15-3, 4-1) freshman forward Chimezie Metu tried to match Parker off the bench. He scored a career-high 21 points, including 14 in the first half when the Trojans were able to pull ahead after shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 45.5 percent on 3-pointers.
Katin Reinhardt was the only other Trojan in double figures, scoring 14 points. UCLA had four players in double figures. Along with Parker, Thomas Welsh had 16 points while Aaron Holiday scored 11 and Isaac Hamilton nearly went for a quiet triple-double with 10 points (on 4-of-13 shooting), 10 rebounds and eight assists. He also had five turnovers.
Here's three takeaways from USC's strong road victory at Pauley Pavilion Wednesday night
Katin Reinhardt had a solid night with 14 points and five rebounds, but he made an even bigger impact on the defensive end of the court. READ MORE
Answering the Run
Once again in Pac-12 play, USC showed just how explosive it can be in the first half, scoring 35 points in the final 13 minutes to turn a four-point UCLA lead into a easy breezy 18-point halftime lead for the Trojans. They did it with defense. They held the Bruins to just three points over a seven-minute stretch as they built the lead into double digits.
But then once again in the second half, a USC opponent came storming back. UCLA went on an 11-0 run to trim the lead down to 10 points and later got it to single digits with five minutes remaining. But there was no deja vu moment from the Washington, Arizona State or Arizona games. From that point, USC answered every single time UCLA scored. And they closed out the game without any heart palpitations or overtimes needed.
"That’s something we preached," junior Julian Jacobs said. "When teams go on runs, we’ve tended to fold in the past, but coaches did a really good job at halftime. The score is 0-0 once you come back out. It’s two different games. It’s two different halves. We just stuck to the game plan and did a good job."
The Trojans drove the ball to the basket and either took it to the rim or found the open man for the kickout. They knocked down their shots and they knocked off UCLA.
Metu The Man
Freshman forward Chimezie Metu uses quickness, athleticism to shine in win over UCLA as he continues to learn. READ MORE
On Monday, USC is very likely to find itself slding into the top 25 polls for the first time since 2008. But they will have to wait around for more than a week after this victory before getting back on the hardwood after making the tough trip up to Oregon (13-3, 2-1) and Oregon State (11-4, 2-2), which could prove to be the second hardest tandem of schools to visit this season behind the Los Angeles trip for opposing teams.
- Julian Jacobs did not wear an ankle brace for the first time since re-aggravating his left ankle in the Washington game.
- Malik Marquetti played two first half minutes after not playing against Arizona. Malik Martin and Strahinja Gavrilovic did not play.
- USC was a perfect 7-for-7 at the free throw line in the first half.
- The Trojans' bench outscored UCLA, 32-2.