As time ran down and USC's lead began to dwindle, a secure Errick Craven looked over to the USC bench and made eye contact with his coach.
"Don't worry," the Trojan guard said to Henry Bibby over the din of 12,736 at Pauley Pavilion. "We've got this. We're going to win it for you."
Pretty swaggering stuff coming from a sophomore whose team blew a 21-point lead in its last outing and had not won on UCLA's floor since 1993.
But it's not cockiness if you can back it up, and with Craven making big shots down the stretch and Desmon Farmer lighting things up earlier in the second half, the Trojans upended the Bruins, 80-75, Wednesday night to get Bibby his first coaching win on his alma mater's court.
"It's a nice feeling and another [Pacific 10 Conference] win," Bibby said as he fought off a smile. "We're improving. We're a young team and I thought we played with a lot of poise tonight. They wanted to win it for me and they came out and did it."
The Trojans (6-4 overall, 2-1 in Pac-10) did it by fighting back from a 10-point deficit against the Bruins (4-6, 2-1) in the first half, and by not folding after their 11-point advantage was cut to a two-point lead with 3:14 to play.
But most of all, they did it by shutting down UCLA senior sharpshooter Jason Kapono, who followed up his 44-point outburst at Washington State on Saturday with only 10 points, three in the second half.
"They shadowed me and cut down on my catches," said Kapono, who made four of 15 from the field, two of nine from three-point territory. With a steady diet of Trojans in his face, Kapono missed his first nine shots of the second half, making a relatively meaningless three-pointer with 18.1 seconds to play and the Bruins down by eight points.
"I stayed patient in the first half," he said. "But in the second half I couldn't get in my rhythm."
Credit the Trojans' brand of box-and-one defense, which had, at different times, Farmer and both Cravens, Derrick and Errick pulling Kapono duty.
"It was everybody's job to guard Kapono," said Farmer, who also turned it on on the other side of the court by finishing with a game-high 25 points, including five of 10 three-pointers.
"I'm just glad we got the victory against our rival. It's our turn."
With UCLA holding a 48-46 advantage with almost 15 minutes to play, USC blew by the Bruins with a breathtaking 17-4 run that included three Farmer three-pointers and a Kapono airball (Farmer had thrown up an airball in the first half and was reminded of it by the fans repeatedly).
By the time the smoke had cleared, USC led by a game-high 11 points, 63-52, with 9:52 remaining.
But just as the Trojans had blown that 21-point first-half advantage at Washington on Saturday, this lead would unravel as well.
After Farmer picked up his third and fourth fouls in a matter of 85 seconds, USC lost its momentum and UCLA suddenly woke up.
A pair of Dijon Thompson free throws with 3:14 to play pulled the Bruins within two, 70-68.
But UCLA would get no closer.
"They wanted it more and had more heart," said Thompson, who led the Bruins with 16 points. "We shot too many long balls. We should have gone inside more."
UCLA was only four of 26 (15.4%) from three-point territory.
"The intensity wasn't there in the second half," said UCLA junior center T.J. Cummings, who had a career-high 14 rebounds, 10 on the defensive end. "They were pounding us on the offensive boards."
After UCLA had crept within two, Errick Craven scored two consecutive baskets, on a spinning, left-handed layup and a coast-to-coast layup off a steal, to right the Trojans.
"There was some slight nervousness because that's seemed to happen to us a lot this year, losing leads," said Craven, who had 24 points and seven rebounds. "I didn't want to force things there at the end because that's what got us in trouble before. But we had to keep playing and not get tentative, keep being aggressive."
They weren't wearing San Diego uniforms, sporting Northern Arizona gear or walking around Westwood in Branch West jerseys.
But the cardinal and gold that the Trojans wear was good enough on a night that ended Bibby's six-game losing streak at UCLA after he had gone 47-1 on the floor as a player while winning three consecutive NCAA titles from 1970-72.
"I think he outcoached [Steve] Lavin tonight," Derrick Craven said. "They didn't know what we were doing out there."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Henry Bibby finally broke through Wednesday with his first victory at Pauley Pavilion since becoming the USC head coach before the 1996-97 season. Bibby is now 3-10 in games against his alma mater, including victories in two of the last three games. A look:
UCLA 96, at USC 87
at UCLA 82, USC 60
at UCLA 101, USC 84
UCLA 82, USC 75 (OT)
UCLA 98, at USC 80
at UCLA 68, USC 63
at USC 91, UCLA 79
at UCLA 83, USC 78
at UCLA 80, USC 75
UCLA 85, at USC 76
at USC 81, UCLA 77
at UCLA 67, USC 65
USC 80, at UCLA 75
* UCLA leads series, 119-95