This was the way to go out. UCLA senior guard Jerime Anderson was adamant about that.
The world will little remember what happened at the Sports Arena on Wednesday. UCLA has often put the “me” in mediocre this season. USC is barreling fast toward a school record for losses.
Anderson, though, will always have this memory. UCLA’s 64-54 victory over USC allowed him to leave the rivalry with a 5-4 record against the Trojans — barring a matchup in the Pac-12 tournament.
“It means I won,” Anderson said. “At the end of the day, I have one more win.
“I have had a lot of ups and downs against USC in my career. It means a lot to go out with a sweep [this season]. It doesn’t matter to me what my numbers are, or how I was individually.”
What Anderson did individually had a lot to do with the Bruins’ putting the Trojans away early.
He had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. He scored 11 of UCLA’s 17 points during a stretch where the Bruins extended a 15-6 lead to 36-16. The lead climbed to 23 and USC got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Other things stood out to UCLA Coach Ben Howland.
“His defense, he did a good job of helping and talking,” Howland said of Anderson. “He showed some really good leadership out there. During timeouts, he was talking to his teammates. I’m happy Jerime gets to go out with a sweep.”
The victory seemed pre-ordained, given the Trojans’ injury woes this season.
David and Travis Wear, UCLA’s 6-foot-10 twins, both had double-doubles playing a smaller USC lineup. David Wear finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. His brother had 14 and 11.
David Wear’s putback gave UCLA a 51-28 lead midway through the second half. The Bruins coasted home.
“It’s easy to get motivated and focused for our rivals,” David Wear said.
The last time UCLA and USC played in the Sports Arena — a 71-68 USC victory — the Bruins were on the road to the Final Four and the Trojans were on a path to NCAA probation.
Neither seems headed in those directions this season.
USC, 6-21 overall and 1-13 in the Pac-12 Conference, is just a shade above an intramural team, after injuries have whittled it down to six scholarship players.
“We don’t have the bodies, the depth or the ability right now to win these games,” USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said. “But we did have enough in us to play hard all the time.”
UCLA (15-11, 8-6) has not lived up the preseason predications. The Bruins are probably not going to win the Pac-12 Conference or earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.
So, Howland said, “I’m really happy to get this win. I knew ‘SC was going to come out and play inspired. With everything they have been through, you have to credit Kevin for the way he has them fighting and scratching this late in the season.”
Still, this was over by halftime.
The Trojans couldn’t shoot, making only seven of 29 shots in the first half and they couldn’t rebound — UCLA had a 24-13 edge.
The Bruins were hardly crisp — they had nine turnovers by halftime — but they didn’t have to be. USC’s first nine possessions included four turnovers and four missed shots, leaving UCLA leading, 10-2, with 15 minutes left in the half.
Anderson capped the half with a baseline jumper for a 31-16 lead.