"We expected to win both of those games," USC junior guard Julian Jacobs said after the Trojans completed the season sweeop of UCLA with an 80-61 win Thursday night at the Galen Center.
From the opening tip to the final horn, USC (18-5, 7-3) commanded the game.
Jacobs snatched the tip at half court and raced to the basket, cutting through three Bruins defenders for a layup. The Trojans would never trail. They scored the first nine points of the game and proved to be the more talented, more exciting and better team.
Jacobs led four Trojans in double figures, finishing with 17 points. Elijah Stewart scored 16 off the bench. Katin Reinhardt made five of his nine shots for 13 points and Bennie Boatwright had 12. The Trojans once again shut down UCLA's leading scorers, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, holding them to a combined 6-for-25 shooting after both were 4-for-13 in the first matchup.
As a team, UCLA (13-10, 4-6) shot just 34.8 percent, including shooting 23.9 percent (7-for-26) on three-point attempts. Aaron Holiday scored 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting and Tony Parker scored 13 points (5-for-9) in 14 minutes, but they were the only two Bruins to shoot 50 percent or better.
USC shot 45.3 percent from the floor and made 40 percent of their long range shots. The Trojans also were stellar from the free throw line, making 12 of 13 for a season-high 92.3 percent.
Here's three takeaways from USC's victory over the Bruins Thursday night
UCLA had its lowest point total of the season and for the second time against USC, leading scorers Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton struggled due to the Trojans' lock down D. READ MORE
For only the fifth time, the USC basketball team played in front of a capacity crowd at the Galen Center. And the place was rocking. Students were lined up at least two and a half hours before the game and the student section, including the upper sections, was packed at least an hour before the game. Starting with the students and their blackout t-shirts, the arena was rocking all night.
"The Galen Center is just a terrific atmosphere for college basketball when it's like this," Andy Enfield said. "It's loud and the fans are on top of you. It's a great place to play. We had tremendous student support. It creates an atmosphere and a home court advantage. We're very appreciative."
The players thrived off the atmosphere, using it to fuel their early 9-0 run. After highlight-worthy moments, players implored the student section to get louder. And the rest of the gymnasium followed suit.
"It was fun. The fans came out and supported," USC guard Jordan McLaughlin said after his nine-point, 10-assist, five-steal performance. "It was just an amazing crowd. Their energy translated out on the court."
"It's definitely nice to see 10,000 at Galen," Julian Jacobs said. "I can't remember the last time it was like that. We're definitely going to hit the road and celebrate tonight."
Both the crowd and tonight's inevitable celebration are well deserved.
More Than a Shooter
Elijah Stewart has become a true weapon off the bench for the Trojans. After beginning the season in the starting lineup, Stewart was demoted, but has settled into his new role. Now he provides instant offense when he checks into the game. He has become a more complete player, capable of scoring at all three levels (in the paint, mid-range and long distance) rather than just being a shooter as he was last season.
Stewart scored 11 points in the first half on his way to putting up 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He also grabbed six rebounds in his 26 minutes to help the Trojans beat UCLA. Stewart was able to score in a variety of ways, including working in the post with his back to the basket. But while he has become more than just a dunk and jump shot specialist, Stewart also has been lights out on 3-pointers. In Pac-12 play, he is now 22 for 42 (52.3 percent) after making two of his three attempts Thursday night.
USC has eight days before its next game when the Trojans travel to Arizona State to take on the Sun Devils at 6 p.m. next Friday. USC's last road trip did not go well and once again, the Trojans have a shot to be newly ranked as they leave the friendly confines. The Sun Devils (12-11, 2-8) are currently 11th in the Pac-12 after having lost five of six, but are tough to play at home (9-4).
- Backup forward Darion Clark missed the game after separating his shoulder in practice Wednesday. Clark told me after sustaining the injury that he was fine after popping it back in place, but USC announced that he will miss a couple of weeks.
- USC improved to 16-1 this season when it shoots a higher percentage than its opponent.
- After Julian Jacobs' burst to the basket off the opening tip, USC led the game for 39:55. You may not see a higher number anywhere in the nation this season. That's pretty much the most time led possible since it takes a quick initial bucket off the tip and then leading wire-to-wire to accomplish.
- USC held UCLA to 34.8 percent shooting. The Trojans are 9-1 when their opponent shoots 40 percent or less.
- UCLA had 17 offensive rebounds and won the rebounding margin, 40-34.
- The last time USC swept the Bruins in a season series by 10+ points in all games was in 1938!
- The Trojans held a 13-0 advantage on fast-break points.