Los Angeles (AFP) UCLA Bruins He could shout “We are number two!” And he feels good about it at the moment.
Record Jaime Jaquez Jr. 27 points and the UCLA 17th seed defeated the 16th seed Southern California 75-68 Saturday night to grab the No. 2 seed in next week’s Pac 12 Championships. Second-seeded Arizona finished first with 18 league wins.
“We’re definitely focused and trying to get into the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments,” said Jules Bernard, who added 19 points.
The Bruins (23-6, 15-5 Pac-12) entered the team’s regular season final, tying for second in the league with rivals crosstown. They snapped a five-game slip against the Trojans with their first win in the series since February 28, 2019, and the first under third-year coach Mick Cronin.
“For sure, finishing the regular season well means a lot,” Bernard said.
Jaquez has scored 57 points in the Bruins’ last two games, including 30 against Washington.
“I just feel so much better,” he said. “My ankle is a lot better now.”
Johnny Guzhang returned to UCLA after missing two games with a right ankle sprain. He finished with eight points, missed two free throws 30 seconds left, and held the Bruins with a four-point lead.
Bernard went 3 of 4 at the free throw line to decide the win.
Isaiah Mobley, Trojans (25-6, 14-6) led with 20 points and eight rebounds. Boogie Ellis and Drew Peterson added 13 points each. Except for scoring the first basket in the game, the Trojans were late the rest of the way. But they closed it in the end.
Driven by a raucous student oath chanting profanity, the Bruins’ defense forced 15 times to avenge a 67-64 loss to the Trojans last month at Galen Center. UCLA had only one spin – by Myles Johnson – for the lowest of any recorded game and the lowest by a Pac-12 team scored.
“Just sharing the ball, not trying to force anything, playing good attacking,” Jaques said.
USC tied the game 47-all in a four-point game by Ellis which capped 12-6 runs to open the second half.
Jackies plunged his hand into a six-point UCLA run before Peterson scored five in a row to draw the Trojans at one point.
Jaquez took charge, scoring in three consecutive possessions at 16-4 giving UCLA its biggest lead, 69-56. The Trojans made four transformations in a short time and Ellis made his third mistake.
But USC regrouped and closed on 70-68 with a 12-1 boom, including seven points from Mobley, as the Bruins turned cold.
“I didn’t like the way we finished the match. ‘We made some pretty mistakes along the way,’” Cronin said. “We did everything we could to allow them to come back. We should have won by double digits.”
Cody Riley hit a turning stage in the fairway that kept UCLA ahead 72-68.
“It was a tough shot,” center coach Andy Enfield said. ”And then Isaiah came down and we got him with the ball and he missed a 3-foot hook. Those were crucial shots. Isaiah always makes those jump hooks, or at least 90% of them, and he missed. We. We just can’t fire a bullet.”
Max Agbonkpolo committed to USC’s last turn when he went out of bounds with 31 seconds to play. Reese Dixon-Waters and Ellis missed a 3-pointer and Ellis missed an easy corner kick in the last 16 seconds.
The Big Picture
USC: The Trojans won 25 games in the regular season, a school record, and are preparing for another post-season action. They made it to the Elite Eight last year.
UCLA: The Bruins went 5-1 in reaching the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament last year and are excited to move on with the talent-packed roster.
The Bruins celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1972 National Program at halftime. Among the players who gathered on Center Court were Bill Walton, Jamal Wilkes, Henry Pepe, Larry Farmer and Sven Nutter, along with assistant coach Gary Cunningham. UCLA went undefeated in 1971-72 under coach John Wooden on his way to winning the school’s eighth NCAA basketball title.
Bernard, Riley and David Singleton were honored before the match, although it may not be the last for the seniors. All three could return next season because the NCAA has granted players additional eligibility due to COVID-19.
Both teams took home prizes in the first round of the Pac-12 Championships in Las Vegas and will open play on Thursday. The Bruins play the 7th place winner for Washington State against the 10th place winner for California. The third-seeded Trojans play either No. 6 in Washington or No. 11 in Utah in the quarterfinals. If both teams win, the Bruins and Trojans could meet in the semi-finals.
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