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To Floyd, UCLA still just another (important) game

Times Staff Writer

Three years in Los Angeles have apparently done little to stir Tim Floyd’s passion for the USC-UCLA basketball rivalry.

Asked about the significance of playing the Bruins in his first season, the Trojans coach responded, “There’s just no way in the world you can put forth any more effort than we’ve put in for Arizona or Arizona State or Washington State in terms of preparation.”

A year later, after Floyd had split his first two games against UCLA counterpart Ben Howland, it was pretty much the same theme. “In the whole scheme of things,” Floyd said, “it is another conference game that is very important because it’s your next one.”

Then there was this from Floyd on Monday: “We treat every game with great importance and they’re all important in this league.”

It’s not that Floyd doesn’t think Saturday’s game against No. 4 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion is vital; it’s just that he doesn’t want to attach a disproportionate amount of significance to any one of his team’s 18 regular-season Pacific 10 Conference games.

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Nevertheless, Floyd did acknowledge fans’ interest in a rivalry that can divide friends and families. He also made a point of mentioning the Bruins during USC’s Midnight Madness event in October at the Galen Center.

“We’re going to try to kick those guys’ [rear ends] across town too!” Floyd exclaimed through a courtside microphone.

The previous day, at a luncheon attended by Southland coaches, Floyd delivered a not-so-subtle jab at Howland when he jokingly told the crowd that the balding UCLA coach might want to consider a new procedure in which it would be possible to transplant an entire scalp from a cadaver.

The seven USC players back from last season are still stinging from the fact that the Trojans trailed UCLA for a total of only 8 minutes 32 seconds in the teams’ two meetings -- and lost both games.

“We feel like we outplayed them and didn’t have anything to show for it,” junior forward Keith Wilkinson said.

“At our place Arron [Afflalo] hit a great shot to win it, and then there, just a couple of mental mistakes at the end that lost it.”

Said Floyd: “I wouldn’t say we outplayed them because we didn’t win. We played them well and we played them competitively but not good enough to win.”

Freshman guard O.J. Mayo and sophomore guard Daniel Hackett practiced Monday after getting banged up during USC’s 66-51 victory over Washington on Saturday. Mayo said his right elbow and right hip, which were injured during a nasty fall in the second half, were fine. Floyd said Hackett’s left hip was also fine.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com


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