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The Sports Report: UCLA upset in Pac-12 tournament; USC wins in double OT

UCLA's Tyger Campbell reacts after a play against Oregon State.
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Ben Bolch on UCLA men’s basketball: It all had a painfully familiar feel for UCLA.

A big lead. Some sloppy play and listless defense. A lead that was no more.

The ending? That was singularly excruciating.

Bruins guard Jules Bernard stood doubled over in anguish, hands on his legs, in the final seconds of a Pac-12 Conference tournament quarterfinal that somehow devolved into more misery.

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After giving up a 16-point cushion against Oregon State on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena, UCLA had a chance to purge the ghosts of collapses past and present in the last minute of overtime.

Instead, there was only more disappointment at the end of an 83-79 loss to Oregon State that left the Bruins’ once-secure NCAA hopes teetering. Players walked off the court in stunned silence, guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. placing his hands on his head in disbelief of a fourth consecutive crushing defeat.

“Things happen,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “Lately, everything that can happen has happened to the Bruins.”

Something more upbeat had seemed possible only moments earlier.

With the Bruins trailing by a point in overtime, Bernard drove toward the basket and got raked across the head while also having his shot blocked with 41 seconds left. There was no foul called in what had otherwise been a whistle-happy game, leading to both UCLA’s Cody Riley and Jaquez fouling out in the final minutes of regulation.

It was the fear of another foul that led to the Bruins’ undoing.

Given one more chance to put his team ahead, Bernard grabbed a rebound after an Oregon State miss and drove the length of the court, barreling into the lane. With Oregon State’s Zach Reichle materializing in front of him, Bernard feared getting called for a charge, flinging the ball toward the wing.

“I knew I had two teammates to my left,” Bernard said, “and I tried to get it back to them.”

The pass was off the mark, sailing into the hands of Oregon State’s Jarod Lucas, who was fouled with four seconds left. Lucas made both free throws, giving the Beavers a three-point advantage, before they fouled UCLA’s Johnny Juzang with three seconds remaining to prevent the Bruins from getting a possible tying three-pointer.

Juzang made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, attempting to give his team a chance at a tip-in. But Oregon State’s Rodrigue Andela grabbed the rebound and was fouled, making both free throws to send the Beavers (15-12) into a semifinal against top-seeded Oregon on Friday.

UCLA’s fate is far more uncertain. Assuming they’re selected on Sunday, the Bruins (17-9) will head into the NCAA tournament having blown four consecutive leads in the second half. Bernard disputed the notion that UCLA played tight down the stretch after leading by as many as 16 in the first half against Oregon State.

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USC MEN’S BASKETBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: Evan Mobley had had enough of the back and forth. The USC freshman had sat out most of the first half in foul trouble, watched as Utah hung around in the second, then sneaked into overtime, and then double overtime.

But then, the superstar freshman took over, dominating on defense, imposing his will in the paint.

Even as the fatigue set in for everyone else, as the depth chart was decimated by foul trouble, Mobley flipped a switch in the second overtime, sending USC to a 91-85 win over Utah in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal at Las Vegas that required multiple escapes.

“It took everything we had to pull out this win,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.

It took an especially Herculean effort from Mobley, who struggled with foul trouble in the first half only to break out for a season-high 26 points to go with nine rebounds and five blocks.

It was the kind of aggressive performance that coaches had been clamoring for, as Mobley slammed headlong into a freshman wall over the last two weeks, struggling to match his stellar play from earlier in the season.

But as USC (22-6) slogged toward a second overtime, the 7-footer put the weight of the Trojans’ postseason hopes on his shoulders.

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Duke’s elimination means pandemic troubles aren’t over yet

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Raising his voice and flexing his arms like a man pleading for help, Stephen Curry shook with frustration in front of his seated Golden State teammates Thursday inside Staples Center.

The star was in the middle of a brutal shooting performance, and his team on its way to a 130-104 rout at the hands of the Clippers to open the second half of the NBA season. But as comfortable as the Clippers’ margin made their night seem, they weren’t without their own troubles.

Starting guard Patrick Beverley left after playing just 11 minutes and was later ruled out from returning because of right knee soreness. Yet to be decided was whether Beverley will join the team on its upcoming three-game trip, coach Tyronn Lue said.

This isn’t the first time the knee has sidelined Beverley. In 2017, he underwent arthroscopic surgery for torn lateral meniscus and also had a microfracture procedure on the knee before spending seven months in recovery. After soreness in the same knee cost Beverley eight games this season, he said he’d “rather it happen now than playoffs,” on Feb. 10, in his first game back.

BASEBALL

Bill Shaikin on baseball: The left-handed slugger comes to bat, and the modern infield shifts. The third baseman moves to second base. The second baseman moves into short right field. The left side of the infield is manned solely by the shortstop.

Should Major League Baseball put a stop to that? Experiments in the minor leagues this year will inform a decision.

In double-A games this year, teams will be required to use a minimum of four infielders, all of whom must have both feet in front of the outfield grass. The results will be evaluated during the first half of the season, and in the second half teams could be required to station two infielders on each side of second base.

The experiments are designed to return singles to the game, and with them the excitement of stolen bases and multi-hit rallies. Teams averaged 8.04 hits per game last season. Since 1908, the only season in which teams have averaged fewer hits per game was 1968, after which MLB lowered the height of the pitcher’s mound to induce more offense.

“We are listening to our fans,” Michael Hill, the MLB senior vice president of on-field operations, said in a statement. “This effort is an important step towards bringing to life rules changes aimed at creating more action and improving the pace of play.”

In Class A leagues, MLB will limit pitchers to two pickoff throws. In triple-A, the size of the bases will increase from 15 to 18 inches, which the league hopes will reduce collisions and encourage more stolen bases.

ANGELS

Jack Harris on the Angels: Matt Vasgersian will be the Angels’ new television play-by-play voice for game broadcasts on Fox Sports West, the team announced Thursday.

In addition to Vasgersian, Daron Sutton has been hired to be the team’s secondary play-by-play broadcaster in a new three-man booth that includes returning color commentator Mark Gubicza and newly elevated analyst José Mota.

This year, Vasgersian and Sutton expect to split the team’s Fox Sports West (soon to be Bally Sports West) broadcast schedule fairly evenly. Specific regular-season game assignments have yet to be decided.

A Bay Area native and 30-year broadcasting veteran, Vasgersian has a long resume calling baseball and other sports. Vasgersian is the play-by-play voice of ESPN’s national “Sunday Night Baseball” telecasts and hosts multiple studio shows for MLB Network. He will continue in both of those roles in addition to his new duties with the Angels.

DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: Mookie Betts, fresh off an NL MVP runner-up season, is the Dodgers’ right fielder for the foreseeable future. He will play there every day in 2021 when healthy and, barring an unexpected dropoff, he will excel. So why has Matt Beaty, one of a few players competing for a spot on the opening day roster, played nine games in right field this spring?

The answer is simple: The Dodgers prize versatility and the more Beaty can demonstrate, the likelier he is to break camp with the team.

Beaty has started four regular-season games in right field as a pro — three for double-A Tulsa in 2017 and one for the Dodgers in 2019. He’s played mostly first base, third base, and left field in his career. This offseason, he focused on speed and quickness to prepare, partly, for playing right field.

“Worked hard this season to not necessarily try to add strength,” Beaty said. “Just try to add explosive movements and being able to get good reads in the outfield and get that good first step.

SOCCER

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Galaxy defender Julian Araujo and midfielder Ulysses Llanez, a former Galaxy academy player, were both named Thursday to the final 20-man U.S. roster for next week’s CONCACAF Olympic qualifying soccer tournament in Guadalajara.

The qualifying tournament, originally scheduled for March 2020, was delayed a year because of COVID-19. The Olympic soccer competition for men is a U-23 event, one the U.S. has played in once since 2000.

“We know that qualifying will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we’re ready for,” U.S. coach Jason Kreis said in a statement. “We’ll need all 20 players on this roster to contribute for us to achieve our ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympics.

“Our players are hungry for the opportunity to compete. We’re excited to get started.”

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With a little more than a month left until their season opener, the Galaxy continue building out their roster, with French midfielder Samuel Grandsir becoming the latest addition.

The Galaxy and Grandsir have agreed on a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth season, a deal the club is expected to be formally announced Thursday morning. Terms of the signing were not released but it was funded with targeted allocation money, meaning the value topped $612,500.

Although Grandsir was under contract with AS Monaco through 2023, the club, which had been trying to get the player off its books since the summer, let him leave by mutual consent, allowing the Galaxy to sign him on a free transfer.

Grandsir, who plays primarily on the right wing, will be added to the Galaxy’s roster pending receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate and will occupy an International spot on the roster.

NEW NEWSLETTER

Everything is bigger in Southern California.

Two championships in 2020 (Lakers, Dodgers). An events schedule that places Los Angeles squarely at the center of the sports universe over the next decade (Super Bowl 2022, College Football Playoff national championship game ’23, World Cup ’26, Summer Olympics ’28).

In no sports space, however, is Southern California’s cultural influence felt more deeply than in grassroots and high school sports. Keep an eye on any professional draft board, college recruiting newsletters and the Team USA roster for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics; the region’s status as the country’s premier feeder system is inarguable.

Which makes 2020 and the impact of the coronavirus that much more devastating. It has been nearly a year since the pandemic shut down high school sports in Southern California. Seniors saw their careers abruptly terminated. Fall and winter athletes had, at best, their showcase opportunities deferred. There was no return to high school competition in 2020 unless you were willing to move to, say, Utah or Texas. Or flout the law.

Finally high school sports are back. And the Los Angeles Times is here to make sense of what promises to be gloriously chaotic spring.

On March 22, The Times will launch Prep Rally, a high school sports newsletter authored by the dean of Southland prep coverage, Eric Sondheimer.

In more than four decades of covering area high schools, Eric has covered, among many others, John Elway and Giancarlo Stanton, Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller, Jordin Canada and Evan Mobley, offering the first windows onto the stardom of hundreds of local athletes before they became national and global stars.

Every Monday morning, we’ll bring you hot teams, cold lists, answers to readers’ questions — the most thorough, dialed-in prep coverage in the state. And every Saturday morning, we’ll bring you the latest football scores.

As has been a Sondheimer hallmark, the coverage will not be limited to football and basketball but will encompass all the sports that make the Southland America’s playground.

“This is a chance for people who love to follow high school sports to keep informed about what is happening from Orange County to the Antelope Valley, from San Fernando Valley to the San Gabriel Valley, from Ventura County to Riverside County,” Sondheimer says. “It’s about highlighting athletes and coaches, discussing trends in sports and looking at recruiting and identifying players before they become household names.”

For more information and to sign up, click here.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

MEN’S
BIG WEST (at Las Vegas)
All times Pacific

Thursday’s results

No. 1 UC Santa Barbara 95, No. 9 Long Beach State 87
No. 5 CS Bakersfield 58, No. 4 UC Davis 56
No. 2 UC Irvine 58, No. 10 Cal Poly 51
No. 3 UC Riverside 62, No. 6 Hawaii 52

Today
No. 1 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 5 CS Bakersfield, 6 p.m., ESPN3
No. 2 UC Irvine vs. No. 3 UC Riverside, 9 p.m., ESPNU

Saturday
Championship, 8:30 p.m.

PAC-12 (at Las Vegas)

Thursday’s results
No. 1 Oregon 91, No. 8 Arizona State 73
No. 5 Oregon State 83, No. 4 UCLA 79 (OT)
No. 2 USC 91, No. 7 Utah 85 (2 OT)
No. 3 Colorado vs. No. 11 California, late

Today
No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 5 Oregon State, 5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network
No. 2 USC vs. Colorado or California, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Saturday
Final, 7:30 p.m.

WOMEN’S
BIG WEST (at Las Vegas)

Today
No. 1 UC Davis vs. No. 5 Hawaii, 12 p.m., ESPN3
No. 2 UC Irvine vs. No. 6 Cal Poly, 3 p.m., ESPN3

Saturday
Championship, 5 p.m.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1937 — The first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) men’s basketball tournament is won by Central Missouri State. Central Missouri wins the eight-team, single-elimination tournament by defeating Morningside College (Iowa) 35-24.

1966 — In the last race of his 40-year career, John Longden wins the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita, aboard George Royal. He retires with a then-record number of victories, 6,032.

1984 — Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean of Britain become the first ice dancing team to record nine perfect marks of 6.0 during the world championships.

1985 — Larry Bird scores 60 points, including Boston’s last 16, to set a Celtics record and lead them to a 126-115 victory over Atlanta.

1994 — The Arkansas men’s track and field team wins its 11th straight NCAA Indoor Championship with a meet-record 94 points. The 54-point victory margin is the biggest in the meet’s 30-year history.

2002 — Siena (17-18), with an 81-77 victory over Alcorn State in the play-in game, becomes first team in 47 years to win an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game with a losing record.

2003 — Damian Costantino’s NCAA-record hitting streak ends at 60 games, one day after he broke Robin Ventura’s 16-year-old mark. Costantino, an outfielder for Division III Salve Regina of Newport, R.I., fails to get a hit in the first game of a doubleheader against Baldwin-Wallace. It’s the first time he finishes a game hitless since March 25, 2001.

2005 — Bode Miller becomes the first American in 22 years to win skiing’s overall World Cup title. He finishes ahead of his only remaining challenger, Benjamin Raich of Austria, in the season’s final giant slalom to capture the crown.

2008 — The Houston Rockets are the third team in NBA history to win 20 straight games and ties for the second-longest winning streak with an 83-75 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

2009 — Syracuse outlasts Connecticut in the second-longest Division I game ever played, capping a Big East tournament quarterfinal doubleheader in which the second- and third-ranked teams in the nation both lose. Andy Rautins hits a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the sixth overtime, to give the Orange their first lead since regulation and they go on to a 127-117 victory over the third-ranked Huskies. Much earlier in the evening, West Virginia beats No. 2 Pittsburgh 74-60.

2011 — The No. 21 Connecticut Huskies win their seventh Big East championship by winning five games in as many days. Kemba Walker shatters the tournament scoring record, getting 19 points in the ninth-seeded Huskies’ 69-66 victory over No. 14 Louisville.

2017 — Joakim Jensen finally ends what is believed to be the longest game in hockey history, scoring in the eighth overtime in the Norwegian League playoffs. More than 8 1/2 hours after the game started — and after 217 minutes, 14 seconds of play — Jensen breaks through to give the Storhamar Dragons a 2-1 victory over the Sparta Warriors. Storhamar leads the best-of-seven quarterfinal series 3-2.

2018 — Alex Ovechkin scores twice to reach 600 goals as the Washington Capitals beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in overtime. The Russian winger is the 20th player and fourth-fastest in NHL history to reach 600 goals.

2018 — Marc-Andre Fleury makes 38 saves to become the 13th goalie in NHL history with 400 career wins, and Ryan Carpenter scores the winning goal with 2:40 left to lead the Vegas Golden Knights over the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2.

And finally

Wally Moon remembers the 1959 World Series. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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