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USC Falls To UCLA In Regular-Season Finale

Paolo Uggetti |
March 4, 2015 | 9:04 p.m. PST

Associate Sports Editor

USC fell to rival UCLA in their final regular season game. (@collegefunyes/Twitter)
USC fell to rival UCLA in their final regular season game. (@collegefunyes/Twitter)

Despite a great shooting night, USC (11-19, 3-15) fell in its final game of the regular to rivals UCLA (19-12, 11-7) by a score of 85-74. 

The Trojans began the game strong, looking focused from tip-off and getting out to an early 12-7 lead. Yet the optimism was short-lived, as the Bruins went on an 18-5 run that included the Bruins shooting over 60% from both the field and three-point land. 

The Bruins early strategy was clear, and it worked to perfection. They started off by getting the ball inside early, where Kevon Looney and Tony Parker dominated the paint and the offensive glass leading to a plethora of second-chance points that would end up favoring UCLA—22-6—by the time it was all said and done.   

"Second-chance points really hurt us," said Coach Enfield. "They really told the story." 

As the Trojans tightened up to defend the inside, the home team responded by reverting to a fluid kick-and-drive game that rendered multiple three-point attempts, and it seemed like all of them were going in. 

For Bryce Alford at least, that was exactly the case, as he hit all tree of his attempts from downtown in the first half and finished with a game-high 23 overall points in the game.  

"He's a terrific player," admitted Enfield. "Give him credit, he made shots."

USC did nothing but hurt themselves during the run, continually coughing up the ball and relenting second chances off the boards. Even CoachEnfield himself did more to hurt the cause when he was tagged with his first technical foul of the year after arguing an official's call. 

Though the Trojans were able to even up the rebounding battle by the second half, they were getting beat to nearly every loose ball, and thanks to the continuing turnovers, the Trojans found themselves down 46-35 at the half. 

USC again began the second half on some kind of positive sequence scoring four straight and cutting the lead down to seven. Yet that was once again thwarted by the stellar shooting of the Bruins, to say nothing of USC's own impressive shooting performance.  

But despite shooting better from the field and from three-pointers by percentages than their rivals, the turnovers killed the Trojans just as much as the Bruins' streaky shooting did. 

Nevertheless, three-point shooting was the name of the game at Pauley Pavilion, as both squads shot above 50% from behind-the-arc. Turnovers were also a defining component wherein USC doubled UCLA's total of 9 with 18 overall.

Though Enfield's squad was coming off a great assist-filled, low-turnover performance against Washington, they simply could not replicate the feat in Westwood on Wednesday night. 

"We made a couple poor decisions in transition," Enfield pointed out. "We tried to force things." 

The recurring theme in the second half was the Trojans' inability to cut the lead down to a manageable number. Time after time again, whether by a Reinhardt three-pointer or a Stewart three-pointer, USC seemed to be on the cusp of making it a close contest, but the Bruins continued to respond, answering every shot with one of their own. 

"Every time we cut it to seven or eight in the second half, they stepped up and made a tough shot," said Enfield. "They deserve the credit."

"Whenever we cut into the lead, they got a big offensive rebound or hit a big three-pointer," echoed Reinhardt. "It is frustrating."

Simply put, the Trojans were ousted by the better team, exemplified by the box score alone which indicated all five of the Bruins' starters scored in double digits, while only Stewart and Jovanovic did for USC.

"I thought we played well enough to win the game," said Enfield. "But we didn't rebound the ball well enough." 

The Trojans actually only lost the rebounding battle by a single board, but the difference was in 13-8 advantage that the Bruins accrued on the offensive glass. 

A by-product of that rebounding coupled with their equally great shooting night led to one of the Bruins' highest scoring totals in conference play. Nearly all of the Bruins starters were explosive by their own accord. Alford only missed one three-pointer, Looney amassed 13 rebounds, Norman Powell had 12 of his own highlighted by a huge dunk and Parker had 22 alongside seven rebounds.

In response, USC was forced to rely on Reinhardt who came off the bench and ended up leading the team in scoring, largely due to making five of seven three-pointers. The upstart Jacobs did not miss a shot, but his over-cautiousness may have backfired, as the Trojans failed to find a viable third scoring option to cut down the UCLA lead. 

"I got a couple guys hurt and out," admitted Enfield. "I decided to play who I played. He then went on to say that Starhinja Gavrilovic will be out for the rest of the season, the latest season-ending injury to tack on the Trojans' already hurting roster. 

The team finishes the season 11-19 overall and a mere 3-15 in Pac-12 play; a minor improvement over Enfield's first season that ended with a 11-21 overall record and a 2-16 record in conference play. The Trojans will now head to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament where they will be the No. 5 seed and likely face Stanford. 

Reach Associate Sports Editor Paolo Uggetti here, or follow him on Twitter at @PaoloUggetti.



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