USC basketball demolished rival UCLA, 80-67, with a dominating performance. at the Galen Center on Saturday afternoon.
Though the Bruins got on the board first, Jonah Mathews and Shaqquan Aaron powered USC from beyond the arc to an early lead over UCLA, 14-4 after four minutes had gone.
The Trojans went up by as many as 12, but UCLA took advantage as USC’s scoring dried up. The Bruins went on a 10-2 run to close the gap at 18-14 midway through the first.
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When UCLA came within two points, freshman J’Raan Brooks made his presence known by breaking a three-minute scoring drought with a couple of jumpers. USC led 22-18 at the eight-minute mark.
Kris Wilkes gave USC a scare when he hit UCLA’s first triple of the day, putting the Bruins ahead for the first time since the opening basket. However, the Trojans responded quickly. Derryck Thornton put down a three, followed by two jumpers from Mathews as USC took back the lead at 29-23.
The Bruins made another push with a 6-1 run, but Bennie Boatwright and Aaron found their stroke from distance to push the Trojans to a 36-33 advantage at halftime.
UCLA’s Prince Ali tied things up at 36 with a triple to open the second half, but Boatwright doubled his efforts as USC retained control.
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The Trojans expanded their lead to double digits and beyond as they ripped off a 17-0 run while the Bruins went five minutes without scoring. In that stretch, Boatwright and Rakocevic’s hot hands helped build the advantage to 63-42, capped by the latter’s dunk. Ali ended the run with a corner three, but Mathews nailed another three in response.
From there, the game was never in doubt. USC came away with a comfortable 80-67 victory.
USC’s largest lead of the night was 26 points, but a 12-0 run for the Bruins in the final minute and a half of play (as the Trojans cleared their bench) ensured the rout would not be their best ever against their rivals. In March of 2016, USC won by 24 points, 95-71, at the Galen Center.
The Trojans commanded Saturday’s game from the start. Though UCLA kept it close in the first half, their poor shooting from beyond the arc, hitting just 1-of-9 in the first half, helped USC take and then keep their lead. A total of 20 turnovers on the day, 12 of which were noted as Trojan steals, ensured USC’s dominance in the end.
It’s likely no coincidence that USC achieved such a thorough victory on the day Rakocevic broke out of his mini-slump from the Oregon road trip. He had a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds in a return to the form which earned him the Pac-12 Player of the Week nod during the opening week of conference play.
Boatwright, meanwhile, maintained his recent run of excellent performances. His 21 points were tied for the most in the game thanks to 5-of-9 shooting from three-point distance.
Mathews also picked up the pace with 16 points while Aaron led the team with seven assists. Thornton delivered a team-best four steals.
The performance is a major boost for the Trojans coming out of two demoralizing losses to Oregon State and Oregon, especially with star freshman Kevin Porter Jr. still sidelined by suspension.
Next on tap: USC will hope to carry the momentum of the rivalry win into next week, when they will host Arizona on Thursday, January 24 at 6:00 p.m. at the Galen Center.