Despite missing the services of starting forward Travis Wear, the UCLA Bruins (20-7, 10-4 Pac-12) rode a hot start all the way to the finish in a 75-59 victory over rival USC (12-15, 7-7 Pac-12) on Sunday at the Galen Center.
Wear was forced to sit out due to a sprained right foot, an injury that he sustained in the Bruins’ practice on Saturday. The news of Wear’s ailment was extremely frightening for UCLA fans, as the 6’10″ junior has been one of the few consistencies in head coach Ben Howland’s depleted frontcourt.
In the previous meeting between the Los Angeles rivals this season, the Trojans put up a domineering performance in the paint, winning in overtime at Pauley Pavilion…and that was with T. Wear on the floor for 38 minutes.
But despite the apocalyptic predictions from the Bruin faithful when the injury news broke, UCLA showed great resilience and determination by completely dismantling USC in the rematch.
The game started about as well as it could have for the Bruins, as they raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes. The advantage eventually grew to 13 points when UCLA claimed a 19-6 lead on a layup from center Tony Parker.
Parker provided a nice spark off the bench for the Bruins, finishing the day with eight points and three rebounds on 4-of-7 shooting. The 6’9″ freshman from Lithonia, Ga. also chipped in a steal and a block in his 17 minutes of play.
At the half, UCLA held a 47-26 edge over USC thanks in part to 60 percent shooting from the floor (and the Trojans’ 33.3 percent mark).
But the Bruins cooled off in the second half, ending up with a comparatively low 47.2 percent shooting performance after 40 minutes. The Trojans tried to take advantage of UCLA’s cold streak, cutting their deficit to as few as nine points during the second frame, but they could never get over the hump.
This game could have gotten a whole lot more interesting if USC had capitalized on a number of wide-open looks, but the Trojans missed eight layups in the last 10 minutes. Ultimately, this was UCLA’s day to shine, claiming the must-win road game and evening the season series with Southern Cal.
Freshman Jordan Adams led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while also notching six rebounds and four steals. It was the second consecutive game that Adams eclipsed the 20-point threshold, which has the Bruins hopeful that he is coming out of his slump at just the right time.
In addition to Adams, the other four UCLA starters posted double-figure scoring, including Travis’ twin brother David Wear.
D. Wear stepped up big time in the absence of his sibling, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to earn just his second double-double of the season. The first came in the season opener against Indiana State, so this could be a sign of things to come if Wear can build some confidence going forward.
Larry Drew II, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad all finished with 11 points to round out the starting lineup. There wasn’t too much to report from these Bruins’ games, except for the fact that Muhammad had perhaps his worst offensive outing since coming to Westwood.
The ultra-talented freshman, who was suffering from conjunctivitis that had his right eye badly swollen, shot a paltry 2-of-7 from the field and committed three turnovers. Had it not been for a solid 6-of-8 mark from the free-throw line, Muhammad likely would have had his lowest scoring total of the season.
And while many may be worried by his poor performance, I would go so far as to say the exact opposite should be felt.
By winning a heated rivalry match on the road, despite the injury to T. Wear and a rough day for Shabazz, the Bruins showed that they have the weapons necessary to compete through adversity. With the Pac-12 title on the line in the coming weeks, there could be nothing more important to UCLA’s success.
Looking ahead, the Bruins have a short turnaround before hosting Arizona State (20-8, 9-6 Pac-12) at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night. The Sun Devils crushed UCLA in the teams’ previous matchup, a 78-60 decision in Tempe, Ariz. at the Wells Fargo Arena. Tip is scheduled for 8:30 PM PST and the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.