Bruins aim to continue streak against Trojans in regular-season finale

Bruins aim to continue streak against Trojans in regular-season finale
UCLA's Norman Powell, bottom center, looks to shoot as he is guarded by USC's Katin Reinhardt, left, Nikola Jovanovic, center, and Jordan McLaughlin during the Bruins' 83-66 victory over the Trojans on Jan. 14. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Near the end of Saturday's news conference, USC basketball captain Julian Jacobs turned his thoughts to Wednesday's game against UCLA and realized something.

"I haven't beaten UCLA since I've been here," Jacobs said, turning to teammate Nikola Jovanovic. "Nik, obviously the same."


He paused. "I don't think anybody has," he said. "It means something, you know?"

Jacobs wasn't exactly right — three players were on the active roster in 2013, when USC last beat the Bruins, though only Chass Byran got in the game — but he underscored a point.

The Trojans, who haven't been very competitive against any Pac-12 team recently, have been especially dreadful against UCLA.

The Bruins have won four straight against the Trojans by a combined 77 points. The last time they hosted USC, last January, they won 107-73, the most points given up by the Trojans since 2000.

Even though each program has seen better days, this final regular-season game has higher stakes than the rivalry has had in some time.

UCLA is a double-digit favorite, but if USC can pull the upset, it could put a nail in the Bruins' NCAA tournament coffin. For UCLA, the win would come with a bonus, too.

"We have a chance to make them finish alone, last in the conference," senior guard Norman Powell said, trying, and failing, to stifle a grin.

"I'm just excited," he explained.

Three weeks ago, sophomore point guard Bryce Alford called the final seven games of the season "playoff games" for UCLA. The Bruins' postseason hopes remain just as muddled now as they were then.

Over that span, UCLA has won four, all at home, and lost two, both on the road. In the Pac-12, the play of Tony Parker has been a bellwether. In those UCLA wins, he has averaged 14.8 points and eight rebounds a game. In the losses, he fouled out with two points and one rebound.

Against USC, Parker only played 21 minutes but scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Jovanovic said USC is a different team now. It has momentum, Jacobs said.

By Tuesday, a few tents dotted the south side of Pauley Pavilion, even though UCLA's student attendance has been spotty this season. This game, it seems, is still worth showing up for.

Norman's night


Powell is so old, Parker joked, that it's difficult to plan a celebration for him after senior night because Powell has an early bedtime.

Powell, the only UCLA senior who gets regular playing time, will be joined by Kory Alford, David Brown and Nick Kazemi in the pregame senior-night ceremony.

"We'll probably do something the next morning for him, like a brunch or a breakfast," Parker said. "He likes oatmeal."

Trojans injuries

USC forwards Darion Clark and Strahinja Gavrilovic are still questionable for the game.

Gavrilovic injured his shoulder and Clark hurt his knee against Washington, though USC Coach Andy Enfield indicated Clark would likely be ready for UCLA.

USC at UCLA Wednesday

When: 6.

Where: Pauley Pavilion.

On the air: TV: ESPN 2; Radio: 570, 690.

Records: USC 11-18, 3-14 in the Pac-12 Conference; UCLA 18-12, 10-7.

Update: The rivalry has been rather lopsided in the last four meetings. The Bruins have won the four by a combined 77 points, including a 107-73 victory last season. USC hadn't given up that many points since 2000. Earlier this season, UCLA won by 17 at the Galen Center. This game has more significance for UCLA, which is still fighting for an NCAA tournament bid. With a win, or a Stanford loss in its next two games, UCLA would clinch fourth place in the Pac-12 and a bye in the conference tournament. The No. 5 team will play the last-place team, likely the Trojans, in the first round. USC has already clinched at least a tie with Washington for last place. Another loss, or a Huskies win, would guarantee last for USC.