Just like football, the USC basketball team owns bragging rights over UCLA. Saturday afternoon at Galen Center, it was a Jonah Mathews buzzer-beater that clinched the rivalry sweep.
The lowdown: After a sleepy first half that saw the Trojans take a 24-22 lead into the break, the season finale rivalry heated up in the second half. Freshman phenom Onyeka Okongwu came alive, and USC led by as many as five with five minutes to play. But four-straight free throw misses in the dying minutes —plus a costly Okongwu offensive foul— gave UCLA life and the lead late. It wasn’t until Jonah Mathews’ three-point dagger with a second to play, when USC could finally put the Bruins to rest, winning 54-52 at Galen Center.
The takeaway: Per usual, it wasn’t always pretty for the Trojans. A shoddy afternoon at the charity stripe left the game in doubt for longer than Andy Enfield would’ve liked. But USC —and Jonah Mathews in particular— answered the bell when they needed to, snapping UCLA’s seven-game winning streak.
The win not only prevents the Bruins from outright claiming the regular season Pac-12 title, but puts UCLA’s NCAA tournament chances in doubt while all but securing the Trojans’. Going into Saturday’s regular season finale, USC averaged a No. 9 seed at BracketMatrix.com. That should only improve now, depending on next week’s showing in Las Vegas.
Player of the game: How can it be anyone but Jonah Mathews? The record-holding guard finished his final game at the Galen Center with a game-winning three-pointer against arch rival UCLA, capping off a 19-point afternoon on Senior Day. That’s how you put a bow on a career.
Highlight of the game:
Next on tap: Next up for the Trojans is the annual trip to the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. With an 11-7 record in conference and tiebreakers in their favor, USC can finish no lower than fourth, therefore guaranteeing a bye in tournament. They’ll tip off Thursday as either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed.