Trojans give Bruins a lot to talk about
When UCLA junior Josh Shipp suggested that the Bruins had team unity and that USC freshman O.J. Mayo might not flourish at UCLA because he wouldn’t get so many shots, the Trojans took it personally and used layups and dunks and relentless will to post a response.
USC upset fourth-ranked UCLA, 72-63, Saturday in front of 12,714, the season’s largest crowd at Pauley Pavilion.
For UCLA (16-2, 4-1), it was the first Pacific 10 conference loss this season and already its second defeat at Pauley. For the Trojans (11-6, 2-3), it was their first win at Pauley since 2004 and proof that they are not some mismatched set of talented parts.
USC freshman Davon Jefferson scored a career-high 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had nine rebounds. Jefferson swooped through UCLA’s highly regarded defense as if it were invisible. For the game, the Trojans shot 28 for 46 from the field (60.9%) against a team that had been holding opponents to 40.4% shooting.
Mayo, averaging about 16 shots a game, took only 12 and played without a hint of flamboyance in totaling 16 points and four assists. He spoke more emphatically afterward.
“I don’t think anyone on that team has a national championship,” Mayo said. “You really need to focus on your team and what you can get better at. That was our main focus. Can we play together and can we come here together and leave together with a victory?”
The answer was obvious.
Shipp, who led UCLA with 21 points, said he regretted nothing he said last week.
“I never said anything that their team didn’t have,” he said. “I only said that we pride ourselves on our unity and playing as a team. If that fired them up, so be it. We just didn’t execute today. That’s why we lost.”
UCLA Coach Ben Howland said he was disappointed the Bruins didn’t handle the occasion of a national television broadcast or the normal elevated interest of playing their local rival with more discipline.
“The key for us was we were way too emotional,” Howland said. “We were so caught up the emotions took over and we made a number of bad choices, bad decisions.”
Howland also gave credit to USC’s switching defenses -- man-to-man and a triangle-and-two, a combination of man-to-man and zone.
UCLA guards Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot six for 22 from the field, and freshman center Kevin Love, while he did have his ninth double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds, was only six for 15 from the field.
USC started with a bang, Jefferson dunking off an assist from Taj Gibson and Gibson getting his own slam off a feed from Mayo. That two-minute flurry brought Westbrook off the UCLA bench in place of Alfred Aboya, and Westbrook’s emotional energy helped him keep Mayo from creating baskets for others.
The Bruins, playing defense with audible effort and intensity, pressured the Trojans into a series of turnovers. They took their first lead at 6-4 on a Love dunk and built the advantage to 22-13 with 9:04 left in the first half on Shipp’s three-pointer.
Instead of being cowed, the Trojans picked up their own pace. Gibson scored on consecutive layups and got a free throw on one. Dwight Lewis made a three-pointer. Guard Daniel Hackett dramatized contact, took a tumble and drew a charging foul on Love, who conducted a conversation with Hackett.
“I played him in AAU a couple of years,” Love said. “I know he flops, he flopped on that one. I looked back at him for about 15 seconds and he just laughed at me at the end. He knew he did it.”
The Bruins led, 32-31, at halftime thanks to backup James Keefe’s first three-pointer of the season, but USC quickly erased that with a 16-7 run to start the second half.
UCLA was also short-handed because starting forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had taken an elbow to the head late in the first half. He played a minute to start the second half, missed one shot badly and was led to the bench.
With 7:18 left in the game, though, UCLA appeared to be back in charge. Love hit a three-pointer to put the Bruins ahead, 57-51.
The Trojans didn’t back down. They had lost to other highly ranked opponents such as Memphis and Kansas with late-game failures, and Coach Tim Floyd was determined that wouldn’t happen again.
“We attacked the rim,” he said. “We just went into a drive game and attacked the rim.”
That resulted in a 21-6 USC run over the last 7:15. The Trojans led, 64-63, then closed with an 8-0 surge in the final 1:10 -- with Jefferson scoring all eight of the points.
The big finish came from the heart, Hackett said. “The difference is that I don’t think they respected us with the words they said before the game. But we just came in here and took care of business.”