As expected, the UCLA Bruins defeated USC on Sunday. What wasn’t expected was how relatively handily they beat ‘SC. The Bruins entered the game on hostile turf having already lost to the Trojans, and faced them without the services of Travis Wear—the team’s third-leading scorer. The last time the Bruins stepped on the court without Wear they were pounded by Arizona State by 18 points. This time, the Bruins played inspired defense and offense to control the game start to finish.
The primary keys to the game were rebounding, shooting percentage and unusual contributions. The Bruins held their own on the glass as they were only out-rebounded by one by USC overall. The Bruins weren’t completely destroyed on the boards by ‘SC the first game, but they were beaten handily. The Bruins fixed that.
Shooting percentage as a team was an almost complete reversal. In the first matchup, USC shot 47.7 percent from the field, while the Bruins shot a measly 38.2 percent. Yesterday, the Bruins shot 47.2 percent, while the Trojans shot 35.3 percent. That reversal allowed UCLA to create a healthy lead of up to 25 points at times in the game. Another factor was the unusual contributions of Tony Parker and Larry Drew II.
Parker logged 17 minutes in Travis Wear’s absence, and he took full advantage of his increased time. The big man looked good scoring eight points and three rebounds. He was a strong presence in the paint on both ends of the floor. He provided much needed muscle and an intimidation factor. He did collect three fouls and blew some defensive assignments, but it seems apparent that if the Bruins are to finish strong and be a factor in pos-season play, Parker has to be a greater part of the mix. He seems ready.
LD II’s contribution was unusual in that he scored early, putting up eight points in the first five minutes of the game. His message to the Trojans was clear: “leave me open at your own peril.” That message was received by USC, which opened up the game for everyone else (except Shabazz Muhammad, who ‘SC was intent on limiting the whole game).
It is worth noting that this game was the prototypical tale of two halves. Inside the two halves were hidden some interesting points. The first half was the “Bruins Unleashed” as UCLA went 17-for-29 from the field, including 9-for-11 in the paint and 8-for-18 from range. The Bruins went 7-for-11 from the free-throw line, nailed six three-point goals on 11 attempts, and scored 47 points. Their offensive execution was fantastic.
In the second half, the Bruins went 8-for-24 from the field including an unremarkable 5-for-11 inside and an abysmal 2-for-13 from range. They went 12-for-17 from the line and they shot only one three-point attempt, which missed. UCLA produced just 28 points in the second half. The second half was played ‘SC-style.
It was pretty apparent the Bruins took their foot off the gas pedal. One three-point shot signals conservative play. Plus, the Trojans played a lot more aggressively on defense. It would have been nice to see UCLA put together a complete game wherein they dominated both halves. Perhaps Coach Howland didn’t want to run in the second half because of his short bench.That stated, this was an impressive victory for a shorthanded UCLA squad. The Bruins are more talented and just better than ‘SC.
Looking forward, UCLA faces Arizona State on Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins have a score to settle with the Sun Devils. It would appear they may be without Travis Wear’s services against ASU once again. It sez here that won’t matter: the qualified emergence of Tony Parker and the more complete LD II, plus the Bruins’ rediscovered offensive touch, will be too much for the Devils to handle.