USC basketball battered UCLA at Pauley Pavilion Wednesday night, scoring the 89-75 victory as they achieved their best start since 1992.
The lowdown: A back-and-forth affair early turned into a dominant first half for the Trojans as Chimezie Metu helped build an 18-point halftime lead.
Midway through the first half, two Elijah Stewart three pointers and contributions from Metu saw the Trojans race forward with a 10-0 run. Just a couple minutes later USC extended their lead when Metu took over, scoring eight consecutive points for the Trojans at one point.
Jan 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans forward Darion Clark (0) is defended by UCLA Bruins guard Bryce Alford (20) during an NCAA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Metu led all players with 14 points, shooting 6-of-7 while also pitching in five rebounds in the first half.
In the second half, Steve Alford’s team fought back into it during a Trojan dry spell. What was a 21-point lead shrunk to just ten points five minutes into the half as Tony Parker asserted himself under the basket.
Two Parker dunks with five minutes left to play would cut USC’s advantage to single digits for the first time since the first half. Jordan McLaughlin sank a triple to restore the Trojans’ sense of control soon after.
Though UCLA would again shrink the deficit, an intentional foul on Metu allowed the freshman to sink both free throws before the USC defense clamped down to end the contest.
The takeaway: With the rivalry game victory over UCLA, the Trojans moved to 15-3 on the season, their best record since 1992. Though USC had already achieved their best win of the Andy Enfield era against Arizona over the weekend, this road test against a Bruin team riding a nine-game home winning streak simply adds to their increasingly impressive resume.
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At this point, questions of USC’s legitimacy as a potential tournament team and conference title challenger can be put aside. They can also expect that elusive AP Top 25 ranking come Monday.
The Trojans were the best team on the court from start to finish while Metu had his coming out party at Pauley, scoring a career-high 21 points.
Notably, USC also seemed to have learned something from their last three games, in which they conceded double-digit leads. Though the Bruins were able to keep things interesting, the Trojans were able to keep their cool and never let them closer than nine points.
Player of the game: Chimezie Metu; 21 points, 8-10, 8 rebounds
Stat of the game: USC’s bench outscored UCLA’s bench 32-2.
Next on tap: USC gets a week off before traveling to Eugene to face Oregon on Thursday January 21st.