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UCLA 76 USC 74 - Deciding Factors

There were some noticeable differences between Thursday’s game and the first meeting of the year between USC and UCLA Below are some tidbits.

USC v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

First Meeting Jan.25, 2017 USC 84 UCLA 76

Quarterfinals Mar. 9, 2017 UCLA 76 USC 74

So for starters Bennie Boatwright did not play in the first meeting between the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins in 2017. UCLA scored the same point total 76 in both games. In the second game the Bruins scored 102 points.

Shaqquan Aaron: Has trended downward against UCLA this season. In the first meeting Aaron led the team in scoring with 23 points in a USC victory. When they were demolished by UCLA in the second meeting he scored 8. In the final meeting Thursday night he scored 0 points. In a game decided by 2 points and Aaron taking so few shots and missing all of them was costly for the Trojans on Thursday. Any amount of offensive production from Aaron on Thursday night could have changed the outcome.

Total Rebounds: Here is something you already know: Rebounds are important. When USC defeated UCLA they were fairly even on the glass. In the two losses the Trojans were out rebound 17 and 11. Those are extra shots and possession the Trojans missed out on.

Steals: Possessions are also critical particularly in a tournament game that is decided by 2 points. The Trojans were less aggressive in the tournament game! On Jan. 25 USC had 12 steals but on Thursday that number dropped to 5.

3’s: The Trojans were were worse from beyond the arc dropping their completion percentage. On January 25 USC went 14-34 from 3-point range good for 41.2%. During Thursday’s meeting they dropped to 9-25 for 36.0%

Free throws: This one is a killer because free throws are supposed to be some of the easiest points you can get and USC regressed from the charity stripe! Jan. 25 USC 16-21 at 76.2% on March 9 USC went 17-25 for 68% which is about 5 percentage points lower than the team’s season average. Not to beat a dead horse but when you only lost by 2 points things like a drop in free throw percentage are critical.

Slow Start: One of the biggest factors for the Trojans Thursday night, however was the unbelievably slow start start they had to the game. USC was pummeled at the outset of the contest and could not hit a shot to save their life. They eventually clawed back into it at halftime trailing 38-35 at the break which is not insurmountable. Compared to the January 25th meeting when the Trojans were victorious, however, tells a much different story. During that meeting USC had scored 50 points by half time compared to UCLA’s 38.

These are just a few of the things that can cost you games come tournament time and something USC needs to work on if they are going to progress as a team under coach Andy Enfield.