The Sports Report: UCLA is no match for USC in men’s basketball

USC's Drew Peterson strips the ball from UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. during the second half.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

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

From Ryan Kartje: There wouldn’t be many more shots like this. For USC, a team just finally rounding into form, opportunities to state their case to the NCAA tournament selection committee were so sparse from here it couldn’t afford to squander any left. Least of all against its bitter rival, UCLA, one of the few Pac-12 teams capable of catching the committee’s attention.

It was with those stakes on his shoulders that Boogie Ellis stepped back from the top of the key Thursday night and let a final-minute 3-pointer fly. Just a few weeks ago, when the two crosstown rivals last met, it was Ellis who unraveled down the stretch, committing an inexplicable offensive foul that turned the tides late.

This time, the Trojans point guard would be his own one-man tidal wave, sweeping away UCLA with a second-half effort that would rank among the most memorable in the recent history of the rivalry. This time, with Ellis in search of redemption and USC in search of a statement, the furious comeback would not fall short in a 77-64 victory over UCLA.


“We needed a big statement win,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.

USC got just that on Thursday, handing UCLA its second consecutive defeat and its fifth straight loss at Galen Center. The Trojans now sit just a single game behind the Bruins in the Pac-12 race, a possibility that seemed quite unlikely just a few short weeks ago.

UCLA remains in the driver’s seat in that regard, having won 14 straight before its current losing streak. But the Bruins’ lackluster effort in the second half left plenty of questions in their wake. Namely why their offense has abandoned them in back-to-back second halves against USC.

“We’re no juggernaut,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “I didn’t harbor any illusions about going undefeated in the Pac-12.”

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UCLA makes progress while posting a $28-million athletic department deficit

Billy Packer, Hall of Fame college basketball broadcaster for NBC and CBS, dies at 82


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From Andrew Greif: By the time the Clippers pulled into San Antonio last Thursday they had lost nine of their previous 11 games and, with each passing day, valuable time to steer themselves out of their skid.

The Clippers’ roster is loaded with players who are versatile, but not by nature vociferous. But as the losing continued, which included losses to Philadelphia and Utah on consecutive nights that dropped the preseason championship contender into the play-in tournament tier of the Western Conference standings, coach Tyronn Lue wanted one of the NBA’s oldest rosters to find answers among themselves. Guard Norman Powell, wing Paul George and forward Marcus Morris Sr. were the most vocal, said people familiar with the locker-room discussions.

Despite a litany of defensive mistakes, the Clippers held off San Antonio last Friday. They started a win two days later behind what Lue called the team’s best defensive performance to date against Luka Doncic. By not allowing their double-digit lead against the Lakers to disappear Tuesday, even in the face of a career-best shooting night from LeBron James, they felt they’d showed a composure they had lacked.

On Thursday the Clippers closed the week that has, for now, revived their season by beating San Antonio again, 138-100, to improve to 27-24. As Kawhi Leonard scored 12 first-quarter points, and George 10 as the lead grew to 16 on Leonard’s buzzer-beating three-pointer, the team’s execution that had once looked scattershot turned methodical, and a once-disjointed roster appeared dangerous.

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From Andrew Greif: Only days before LeBron James surpasses one of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s NBA records, he equaled another of his Lakers predecessor’s record-setting achievements.


James was named an All-Star game starter Thursday, matching Abdul-Jabbar as the only 19-time All-Star in the league’s history.

His no-doubt selection as a starter and captain follows what has been a superlative individual season for the 38-year-old Lakers forward: 29.9 points per game, 8.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists. With 7.4 million votes, James earned the most votes of any player by a margin of 700,000 over Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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Top six make the playoffs; 7-10 qualify for a play-in tournament to determine the final two playoff spots.

1. Denver Nuggets, 34-15, —
2. Memphis Grizzlies, 31-17, 2.5 GB
3. Sacramento Kings, 27-20, 6 GB
4. New Orleans Pelicans, 26-23, 8 GB
5. Clippers, 27-24, 8 GB
6. Dallas Mavericks, 26-24, 8.5 GB

7. Phoenix Suns, 25-25, 9.5 GB
8. Minnesota Timberwolves, 25-25, 9.5 GB
9. Golden State Warriors, 24-24, 9.5 GB
10. Utah Jazz, 25-26, 10 GB

11. Oklahoma City Thunder, 23-25, 10.5 GB
12. Portland Trail Blazers, 23-25, 10.5 GB
13. Lakers, 23-26, 11 GB
14. San Antonio Spurs, 14-35, 20 GB
15. Houston Rockets, 11-38, 23 GB


From Sam Farmer: The San Francisco 49ers will play at the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Much of the focus will be on the two young quarterbacks, Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and San Francisco’s Brock Purdy, with everyone watching to see how they will handle the pressure of the moment.

Hurts and Purdy have been here before.

Not in the NFC championship game, but they have been in a college-football crucible, matching each other score for score on a big stage. The quarterbacks combined to throw and run for 11 touchdowns in 2019 when Hurts’ Oklahoma Sooners held off Purdy’s surging Iowa State Cyclones to secure a 42-41 victory. The game was decided when Purdy’s two-point conversion pass was intercepted with 24 seconds left.


For Purdy, the 49ers’ remarkable rookie, that loss at Oklahoma still stings. Yet it was one of many learning experiences he leans on as he prepares for the biggest game of his young career.

“In terms of the environment and everything, those kinds of games definitely helped,” he told reporters Wednesday. “Just a lot being on the line, focusing on the moment, focusing on what’s in front of you, focusing on the defense rather than getting caught up in the crowd and that kind of stuff. I played in a couple of those games in college, and it’s a great experience for me to go back to how I felt.”

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Medically speaking, Patrick Mahomes’ injured ankle swells optimism for Chiefs vs. Bengals

All times Pacific
Conference championship

NFC: San Francisco at Philadelphia, Noon, FOX, FOX Deportes
AFC: Cincinnati at Kansas City, 3:30 p.m., CBS, Paramount+

Super Bowl
Sunday, February 12
3:30 p.m., Fox


We asked for your prediction for the Super Bowl matchup. After 1,356 votes, the results:

Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia, 35.8%
Cincinnati vs. San Francisco, 27.9%
Kansas City vs. Philadelphia, 21%
Kansas City vs. San Francisco, 15.3%

Former Chargers, Lions linebacker Jessie Lemonier dies at 25



From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: It didn’t take Scott Juniper long to know he wanted Jenika Davis on his team. The UC Irvine women’s soccer coach saw an exciting attacking wide player who never shied away from defenders. She charged forward, powering through any anxiety, and welcomed the challenge of beating the last player.

Davis is now using that same fearlessness in a much tougher battle.

The freshman midfielder/forward was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in October and has already begun chemotherapy treatments. While Juniper said doctors have reported that Davis is responding well to treatments, she needs a blood stem cell transplant to conquer the disease.

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U.S. Soccer loses two top leaders, jeopardizing Gregg Berhalter’s future as coach


From John Cherwa: Flightline, whose brief two-year, six-race career drew comparisons to Secretariat, was given horse racing’s highest annual honor on Thursday when he was given the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. He also was named top Older Dirt Male among the 17 horse and human awards announced at a ceremony in Palm Beach, Fla.

Flightline finished his career with a record-breaking 8¼-length win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Nov. 5. He was based at Santa Anita and trained by John Sadler.


Flightline was undefeated in six races, winning by a total of 71 lengths. The owners of Flightline, part of a sport that is in desperate needs of stars, did what is usually done, retired him to stallion duty the day after the Classic. The horse can make more money in the breeding shed than racing.

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Frank Vatrano scored three goals, Adam Henrique and Mason McTavish scored 24 seconds apart in the third period and the Ducks rallied from a two-goal deficit to stun Colorado 5-3 on Thursday night and snap the Avalanche’s six-game winning streak.

Trailing 3-1, Vatrano scored his second goal with 1:23 left in the second period.

The Ducks then dominated early in the third period. Henrique tied it on a feed from Denver native Troy Terry at 9:42. And McTavish put the Ducks ahead when his shot trickled past Pavel Francouz.


1937 — Tris Speaker and Cy Young are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1973 — UCLA, led by Bill Walton, sets an NCAA record for consecutive victories with its 61st win, an 82-63 victory over Notre Dame. UCLA breaks the record of 60 set by San Francisco in 1956. Walton scores 16 points, grabs 15 rebounds and blocks 10 shots.

1982 — Geoff Houston of the Cleveland Cavaliers hands out 27 assists, two short of the NBA record and scores 24 points in a 110-106 victory over the Golden State Warriors.


1991 — The New York Giants survive the closest Super Bowl ever when Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal attempt with 8 seconds left in the game goes wide. The Giants win their second Super Bowl in five years, 20-19 over the Buffalo Bills.

1993 — American Chad Rowan is awarded the highest rank in sumo wrestling, the ancient Japanese sport, making him the first foreign “yokozuna.” The 6-foot-8, 455-pounder from Honolulu, becomes the 64th person to hold the top rank in the sport’s history.

1996 — The U.S. Golf Association elects Judy Bell as the first female president in its 101-year history.

2001 — Jennifer Capriati upsets three-time winner Martina Hingis 6-4, 6-3 to win the Australian Open and her first Grand Slam tournament title.

2003 — Hermann Maier wins a World Cup super giant slalom in Kitzbuehel, Austria, a victory he ranks among his finest triumphs. The win comes 18 months after he almost loses his leg in a motorcycle crash.

2007 — Serena Williams wins her third Australian Open singles title, routing Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2. Unseeded and ranked 81st, Williams wins her eighth and most improbable Grand Slam. She is the second unseeded woman to win the Australian title in the Open era.


2008 — Novak Djokovic fends off unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (2) in the Australian Open final, earning his first Grand Slam title.

2008 — Eric Staal wins the most valuable player award in the NHL All-Star game, registering two goals and an assist in the East’s 8-7 win over the Western Conference. Staal helps set up Marc Savard’s winning goal with 20.9 seconds left.

2010 — Washington’s Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton are suspended without pay for the remainder of the season by NBA commissioner David Stern. Both players admit to bringing a gun or guns into the Wizards’ locker room — a violation of the collective bargaining agreement — after a dispute stemming from a card game on a team flight.

2011 — Roger Federer, the 16-time Grand Slam winner, is knocked out of the Australian Open by Novak Djokovic in a semifinal match, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-4. Federer’s loss marks the first time since 2003 that he wouldn’t hold any of the four major titles.

2013 — Novak Djokovic beats Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 to become the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles.

2013 — Little-known Max Aaron wins his first title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and helps knock down three-time men’s champion Jeremy Abbott to third place.


2013 — Speedskater Heather Richardson edges Canada’s Christine Nesbitt in the final women’s race to become the first American woman to win the World Sprint Championships since 2005.

2013 — The NFC blew past the AFC 62-35 in the Pro Bowl. Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph is voted the game’s MVP with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Scott Norwood missed wide right at Super Bowl XXV. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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