USC basketball battled with UCLA in an entertaining, but heartbreaking loss, falling 93-88 in overtime at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night.
Bennie Boatwright opened the scoring for both teams with a putback. Though USC didn’t shoot particularly well in the opening minutes, the Trojans commanded the boards, turning five offensive rebounds into six second-chance points. Boatwright’s slam capped a 16-6 lead early.
Back-to-back three-pointers from UCLA’s Jaylen Hands cut into that Trojan lead as the Bruins mounted a 12-0 run to take the lead at 18-16. The run was ended by a J’Raan Brooks triple.
UCLA pulled ahead midway through the first half, but USC’s freshmen Kevin Porter Jr. and Brooks fueled a 7-0 run to take back the lead at 33-32.
With the game tied going into the final minute of the half, Jules Bernard hit a three-pointer while Porter Jr.’s effort rattled out. The Bruins were ahead 41-38 at the break.
Porter Jr. started the second half with an emphatic dunk, though he missed the and-one opportunity. He made up for it with a three-point block, then later steal and a flying alley-oop dunk to put USC ahead 48-45.
Things started to unravel for the Trojans when Porter Jr. went down with an ankle injury. Not long after, Nick Rakocevic took a knee to the back of his knee and came off injured as well. Then Boatwright missed a pair of free throws and fouled Kris Wilkes to give UCLA a three-point play. The Bruins came out of the sequence up 54-51.
Eventually, both Rakocevic and Porter Jr. were able to return to the floor, but UCLA used the momentum to their advantage and built a nine-point lead before a Boatwright corner three trimmed the deficit at 62-56.
Four consecutive three-pointers from Derryck Thornton, Boatwright and Elijah Weaver dragged USC back in front of their rivals at 70-68.
UCLA wrestled the lead back, but the Trojans went into the final two minutes of the game within one point.
Boatwright displayed his hot hand from beyond the arc, knocking down a triple to pull USC ahead, 82-80, but Chris Smith responded quickly with a jumper to tie with a minute to play.
Both teams got a chance to win the game in the end, but neither possession settled things as Boatwright’s heave at the buzzer fell short.
In overtime, David Singleton put UCLA on the board first with a three-pointer. Though the Bruins looked in control at 87-82, Weaver and Boatwright each hit triples to give the Trojans a chance in the final minute, trailing 89-88.
Hands delivered the dagger, however. His desperation shot from well beyond the arc with 21 seconds left went in as the shot clock sounded, giving UCLA a four-point advantage and ultimately the win.
On the one hand, USC hit 19 three pointers to stay right in the game on UCLA’s home court.
On the other hand, the Trojans were plagued by familiar issues, including another awful shooting night from the free throw line. Victor Uyaelumno was the only player in cardinal and gold to sink a shot from the foul line, as the team went 1-for-7.
Rakocevic was in foul trouble for much of the game, which no doubt contributed to USC losing the rebound battle 55-44.
The positive to glean from the loss was the performance of young playmakers. Before his injury, Porter Jr. was bright with 10 points. Brooks had the best game of his young career with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Meanwhile, Elijah Weaver delivered seven assists while committing no turnovers on the night.
Boatwright was also a bright spot, hitting seven three-point baskets en route to 25 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
Jonah Mathews also 17 points and five triples.
Next on tap: USC will face their final road trip of the regular season next week, traveling to Utah on Thursday, March 7 before a date with Colorado on Saturday, March 9.