Three up, three down. For the first time since 1954, the USC Men's Basketball Team finished the season 3-0 against UCLA, taking command of their rivalry with the historically dominant Bruins. The win marked only the second time in the past 13 seasons that USC has won the season series.
The Trojans (21-11, 10-9 in the Pac-12) stormed out of the gate to take an early 11-0 advantage, easing their way to a 95-71 victory. This first round matchup of the Pac-12 tournament, held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, was a much needed boost for a team whose best days seemed to behind it.
Despite limping into the tournament having lost 4 of its last 5, the Trojans silenced the doubters with a nearly perfect first half of basketball. They tallied 48 first half points to UCLA's 29, in large part due to 4 three pointers from Bennie Boatwright.
In fact, none of the USC perimeter players could be stopped all night. Julian Jacobs added 11 points and 9 assists, while Jordan McLaughlin chipped in with 18. Boatwright totaled 19 on the night, and pulled down 9 boards.
Still, the performance was far from perfect if the Trojans want to make serious noise deeper into March. They committed 17 turnovers on the night, way more than they forced. They allowed UCLA to make a run and cut into the lead late, but hung on to advance to the tournament quarterfinals, where they face #2 Utah.
The Bruins' future is much murkier, as they face serious questions going forward. The first and most important of those is what they decide to do with head coach Steve Alford. The UCLA program is not used to losing, finding itself in a precarious situation.
Still, the tournament goes on, and USC will face the red hot Utes, winners of 7 straight. The last time the two teams faced each other, the Trojans fell 80-69 in mid- February. The game will begin at 6:00 pm PST tomorrow and is available for streaming on the Pac-12 networks.