The UCLA Bruins were coming off back-to-back home wins against the Oregon schools, both wins were exciting wins but definitely not wins that gave UCLA fans a lot of hope that this team was turning the corner heading into the conference tournament.
Going into tonight’s game at Pauley Pavilion, the UCLA Bruins and Southern Cal Trojans were both tied with identical records (15-13, 8-7), as both teams continued their pursuit of one of the top four slots in the Pac-12 Conference standings.
Deja vu was the word that came to mind to start this game. Back in January, the Bruins started off the game going down 10-2 early to the Trojans and never really recovered.
Fast forward to tonight and to start the game, UCLA immediately went down 11-4 heading into the first media timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Trojans continued to pour it on the Bruins and extended the lead to 16-6 at the 13:54 mark, but once again Jaylen Hands decided to bring the Bruins back on his own. To go with a Jules Bernard jumper, Hands hit back-to-back three-point shots that brought UCLA back to within two points 16-14 and forced a Southern Cal timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Bruins continued where they left off and extended their 12-0 run and took an 18-16 lead on a Kris Wilkes jumper. Wilkes and Hands were pacing UCLA early and scored 18 of their 24 points heading into the second media timeout, as they trailed the Trojans, 25-24, at the 7:40 mark of the first half.
Out of the timeout, David Singleton decided to do a little Jaylen Hands impersonation, as he drilled back-to-back three-point shots to put the Bruins up 32-26 and forced another Southern Cal a timeout.
The UCLA lead was short-lived as the Trojans went on their own 9-0 run and retook the lead 35-32. J’Raan Brooks was they key to the Southern Cal run as he scored six of the points on the run.
UCLA ended the half on a 7-0 run that was led by Bernard, as he hit a running floater in the lane and also a three with 34 seconds left in the half to put the Bruins up 41-38 to end the half.
Chris Smith seemed to be the only Bruin that could score as the second half started and luckily he did. Smith scored all seven of UCLA’s points to start the half, and his conversion of a three-point play tied the score 48-48 early in the half.
Right before the media timeout, both teams looked on with concern as Southern Cal’s Kevin Porter Jr. flew in for a rebound and hung on the rim to protect himself, but, as he released off the rim, he fell to the ground awkwardly and in pain. Porter was taken to the locker room. He was able to eventually return but went right back out as he was still noticeably limping.
The Bruins then went on an 11-0 run, highlighted by Moses Brown converting on two free throws and Hands hitting a deep three to put them up 59-51 at the 12:49 mark.
UCLA continued to hold the lead as it was 66-61 heading into the media timeout at the 7:35 mark as both teams struggled offensively for a stretch.
Out of the media timeout, Bennie Boatwright hit two three-point shots and Elijah Weaver hit one that extended a 7-0 Southern Cal run and put the Trojans up 70-68 at the 6:17 mark and forced a Murry Bartow timeout.
The Bruins soon retook the lead, 72-70, on a beautiful spin move by Jalen Hill on which he was fouled but could not convert the three-point play.
Both teams went back and forth with UCLA struggling to stop the Trojans from converting behind the arc. From the 9:22 mark until the 3:41 mark, the only shots Southern Cal converted were three-point shots and they hit five of them during that span keeping them in the game. Regardless of this Trojan shooting, at the 2:49 mark, the score was tied, 77-77, and they were heading for a great finish.
Boatwright drained a three-point shot at the 1:18 mark to put the Trojans up 82-80. The Bruins came right back as Smith came down and converted a foul line floater to tie the game, 82-82.
On Southern Cal’s next possession, Boatwright missed a contested three. UCLA rebounded but could not get in a set and they were forced to call their last timeout with 37 seconds left. Out of the timeout, Hands called for a high screen to be set, came off the screen and forced a deep three-point shot that was missed. The Trojans rebounded and called a timeout with 18.9 seconds left in the game.
Out of the timeout, the Trojans looked horrible and, according to Bill Walton, had one of the six worst possessions in the history of basketball as they initiated the offense late in the clock. Boatwright forced a deep contested three that was missed and the teams headed for overtime.
UCLA’s freshmen back-court led them early. Bernard gave the Bruins the lead in overtime as he drove, split the defense, and hit a one-handed runner to put them up, 84-82. Singleton was not to be outdone by Bernard as he hit a wide open corner three to put the Bruins up, 87-82, with 2:42 left in overtime, forcing a Southern Cal timeout.
The Trojans continued to stay in the game by hitting three-point shots. In between a put-back dunk by Moses Brown, Weaver and Boatwright both hit threes, and UCLA was only up 89-88.
On the Bruins’ next possession, they ran the shot clock down and Hands drove to the basket, but his shot was blocked. UCLA kept possession and only had five seconds left on the shot clock. UCLA in-bounded the ball and Hands hit a desperation three to put them up, 92-88, with 21 seconds.
The Bruins were able to finish it off and avenge the January loss to the Trojans with a 93-88 victory at Pauley.
UCLA will not return to action again until they travel to Boulder on Thursday, March 7th to take on the Colorado Buffaloes. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 pm PT.
UCLA Player Grades
Moses Brown: B+
Brown struggled early, but he continued to work hard and was a difference maker in the second half as he finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds. His effort tonight was huge!
Jaylen Hands: A
Granted, Hands forced a few shots and was even taken out of the game to start overtime, but tonight was two games in a row where he hit the big shots for the Bruins.
Kris Wilkes: B
Wilkes had kind of a sporadic night. Early in the game both him and Hands kept the Bruins in the game. In the second half he almost disappeared.
David Singleton: B+
3 of 4 from behind the arc and his corner three in overtime that was the pretty much the dagger. These freshman guards are growing right before our eyes.
Chris Smith: A
One of Smith’s best games. He played the high post and made some really big shots from that position in the offense. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
Jules Bernard: A
Again, I am just a fan of this kid. He’s one of those players that no situation seems too big for him. I love his aggressiveness, and I look forward to watching him grow as a Bruin.
Jalen Hill: B
Hill was solid tonight, and did the little things that a team needs to get a win like this. Just a solid night for HIll!
Cody Riley: D
Riley got limited minutes and was not a factor in tonight’s game.
Alex Olesinski: D
When you get limited shots, you have to convert. Although he grabbed some boards, he missed some wide open shots.