All you needed to know about USC's offense in the first half Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion was that Abdoulaye N'diaye seemed like not only the best option but the only option.
Typically the last resort among the starters, the junior center scored seven of USC's nine points and had made all three of its field goals in the first 14 minutes 52 seconds.
It was little wonder, then, that the Trojans trailed by as many as 22 points in the early going on their way to a 66-45 loss to No. 18 UCLA.
USC figured it had the guards to keep pace with the Bruins, but the quartet of Gabe Pruitt, Nick Young, Ryan Francis and Lodrick Stewart was no match for its counterparts. The Trojans made only one of their first 10 shots and didn't convert an outside shot until Stewart's three-pointer with 4:30 left in the first half.
"UCLA did a terrific job on us defensively," USC Coach Tim Floyd said. "They really had great pressure on the guys who have scored for us, and we didn't respond to it."
USC trailed, 39-19, after making only 27.3% of its shots in the first half; take away the production of N'diaye, who made three of his four shots, and that figure deteriorates to 16.7%.
"They dictated our shots," Francis said of the Bruins. "We took the shots that they wanted us to take."
UCLA held the trio of Young, Pruitt and Stewart, who had entered the game averaging a combined 46 points, to 17 on a combined five-for-25 shooting. Young, who had eight points, did not score in double figures for the first time this season.
Young set the tone on USC's first possession when he had a wild shot on a spin move. Pruitt subsequently missed a three-pointer as the shot clock expired and later hoisted another shot from long range that popped in and out of the rim.
"It was just one of those nights where nothing was falling," said Pruitt, who made only one of nine shots and missed all five of his three-point attempts.
Francis, hobbled earlier in the week by a bruised right knee, was in the starting lineup but didn't make much of an impact before picking up his third foul with 7:56 left in the first half. He did not return before halftime.
"I wasn't letting nothing hold me back," Francis said. "It was sore, but I'm not blaming anything on my knee. I felt I could have performed better."
N'diaye seemed to be the only functioning part of a broken offense. He took a pass from Pruitt and dunked on a breakaway, made a one-handed turnaround and scored an easy basket underneath off an assist from Stewart.
N'diaye couldn't sustain the display in the second half; he picked up his fourth foul with 17:47 left and played only two minutes after halftime.
Floyd picked up his first technical foul as Trojan coach early in the second half after arguing about the fourth foul on Francis, who was called for charging into UCLA center Ryan Hollins.
After being called for the technical, Floyd tossed his play list to the floor and kicked it toward the Trojan bench. Arron Afflalo made both technical free throws with 16:11 left to give the Bruins a 47-23 lead.
"I don't talk about the officiating," Floyd said. "They've got these rules."
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, one of the few Bruins who had not been injured this season, came out with a bruised right shin in the second half but returned. He finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.... The 45 points were the fewest USC had scored in the cross-town rivalry since 1967, when UCLA beat the Trojans, 40-35.