There are games when UCLA guard Norman Powell becomes an ignition switch. The Bruins' game Saturday night against USC was one of those times.
To say UCLA was in a funk during the first half would be an insult to teams in funks. UCLA looked worn and beaten.
Powell stepped in and started the salvage operation that ended in an 83-73 Pac-12 Conference victory for the Bruins at the Galen Center. Powell had a season-high 21 points, 17 coming in the second half. He made six of seven shots after halftime.
FOR THE RECORD:
UCLA basketball: In the Feb. 10 Sports section, the caption for a photo with an article about UCLA's victory Saturday over USC identified a UCLA basketball player as Norman Powell. The player was Jordan Adams. —
"Norman has been good at that all year," said UCLA Coach Steve Alford. "He drives the ball hard, he's a good defender, he makes his shots."
Check that. He doesn't always make his shots. Powell was shooting 18% from three-point range before Saturday. He had seven three-pointers this season — but made two early in the second half that sparked a 27-6 UCLA run that wiped out USC's 41-35 halftime lead.
"I know I can knock those down," Powell said. "I put in a lot of work on my own because I was not shooting the way I know I can."
Powell augmented those jumpers with what he does best, make powerful drives to the basket and play tough defense. He had two steals early in the second half, resulting in four points. He also had a tomahawk dunk on a drive. Powell followed that with a three-pointer to give the Bruins a 54-46 lead.
He scored 10 of UCLA's first 19 points in the second half.
UCLA shot just 33% in the first half but lifted that to 40% for the game. However, the most notable improvement was on defense. Last-place USC (10-13 overall, 1-9 Pac-12) shot 59% in the first half as Byron Wesley scored 18 of his game-high 27 points. But the Trojans scored only 11 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
The victory allowed the Bruins (18-5, 7-3) to remain in second place in conference play, two games behind Arizona.