USC Basketball: Trojans drop tough rivalry game to UCLA

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 03: Shaqquan Aaron
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 03: Shaqquan Aaron /

USC basketball had a chance to notch a critical victory at Pauley Pavilion, but ultimately dropped the ball as UCLA came away with an 82-79 win.

The lowdown:

Shaqquan Aaron imposed his will on the floor in the opening minutes, hitting three-of-three three-point attempts while doing work as a rebounder under the basket. He accounted for 12 of USC’s points as the Trojans jumped out to a 27-16 lead.

The Bruins mounted a 14-2 run, capped by an Aaron Holiday triple, as USC missed eight consecutive shots. The Trojan advantage disappeared with five minutes in the first half.

Though USC gave up their big lead, they kept the game back-and-forth through the end of the half, holding a 41-40 lead at the break. The gap could have been bigger as Elijah Stewart seemed to have tipped in a missed three-pointer at the buzzer, but the refs waived the shot off after review.

The second half featured better defensive energy from the Trojans, but UCLA kept the game close then hit USC with an 8-2 run, including a killer Holiday three after a Gyorgy Goloman dunk sent the crowd into a frenzy. UCLA led 58-55 with 12 minutes remaining.

Chimezie Metu exploded to put USC back in control, starting with a highlight-reel monster dunk on an alley-opp inbounds from Jordan McLaughlin. He added an impressive layup and then got active on defense with an emphatic block on the other end. Another flurry from Stewart extended a 14-2 run, with USC up 69-60 with eight to play.

Again a UCLA run of seven unanswered points, including a Holiday three-pointer, closed the gap.

A scuffle between Alex Olesinski and Rakocevic saw both teams shoot free throws, but USC missed both while UCLA hit both, setting up the Bruins to take back the lead.

As the clock ticked down to two minutes, Aaron drove to the hoop with a silky finish to put USC up 77-76.

After a free throw tied the game, Thomas Welsh drained a three-pointer to give the Bruins a commanding lead. However, Stewart drew a foul, hitting both free throws before Golomon missed his foul shot to give USC an opportunity with 24 seconds remaining. The ball ended up back in Aaron’s hands, but he airballed an attempt at a runner.

Welsh’s free throw extended the deficit to three points, but USC’s two desperation shots both missed the mark.

Player of the game: Aaron Holiday kept UCLA in the game from start to finish, hitting the big shots the Bruins needed to keep USC from grabbing a stranglehold. He finished with 23 points while hitting 5-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc.

Stat of the game: USC’s Jordan McLaughlin moved to ninth on the all-time Pac-12 assist chart.

Next on tap: The Trojans travel to Arizona State on Thursday, Feb. 8 for a critical potentially resume-building contest.