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USC upsets rival UCLA for fifth consecutive win over Bruins

USC upsets rival UCLA for fifth consecutive win over Bruins


This time, there would be no late heartbreak, no final turn of the knife, no stunning buzzer-beater to remember (or forget). There was no Tahj Eaddy in the corner for three or Jonah Mathews step-back at the top of the key. There would be no one moment that would haunt UCLA — or play on forever in highlight reels for USC.

This time, it was UCLA’s Tyger Campbell who had the ball in his hands late, down three with a chance for a stunning shot in the final seconds.

This time, the buzzer-beater came up short — and USC still won a stunner, taking down No. 12 UCLA, 67-64, for its biggest victory of the season so far.

For No. 21 USC, the victory, its fifth straight over UCLA, was meaningful on multiple fronts. It was the first for the Trojans over a ranked opponent this season, a major moment for a team that to this point had little else bolstering its NCAA tournament resume. USC also drew within two games of Pac-12 leader Arizona, while all but eliminating its rival from the conference race.

For a program still working to establish itself as a Pac-12 power, it was a major mile marker.

The last time USC won five straight over UCLA, John Wooden still was coaching at South Bend Central High School, a legendary career still very much ahead of him. The Trojans had won 42 in a row over their rivals to that point in 1942, but as Wooden took over a few years later, the next 80 years would pass by with USC unable to reach five consecutive wins over its rival.

Over those eight decades, there can’t have been many performances quite as gutsy as Drew Peterson’s on Saturday. The streaky senior had struggled over USC’s last four, shooting eight for 31.

But as the Trojans trudged on without their leading scorer, Peterson stepped into the void and more than filled Isaiah Mobley’s shoes. He scored 25 points and added 12 rebounds, five blocks and four assists as he dominated UCLA on both ends.

For the Bruins, it was a poor shooting performance that ultimately did them in. With USC’s stingy defense bearing down, UCLA shot a meager 30% — and 25% in the second half.

Campbell led the way for the Bruins, in spite of that final miss, scoring a season-high 27 while the rest of UCLA’s offense spent most of the night ice cold.

The Trojans’ Drew Peterson shoots over the Bruins’ Johnny Juzang during the first half.

(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Still, he had two chances to win late, first coughing up a possession, then missing the final buzzer-beater attempt, when a Hail Mary inbounds pass from USC nearly ended in disaster.

Before that, Saturday played out much in the same way as its buzzer-beating predecessors, with the two crosstown rivals trading punches and riding the hot hand on offense.

But this time, USC was left to recreate the magic of its last four victories over UCLA without Mobley, who fractured his nose last weekend in a loss to Arizona. All signs pointed towards Mobley suiting up against the Bruins. He was fitted earlier in the week for a protective mask, and coach Andy Enfield expressed confidence that he’d be in the lineup.

As both teams began warm-ups, Mobley sat on the bench in street clothes. It wasn’t long after that it became clear how much USC would miss him.

A sold-out crowd at Galen Center made its presence known from the opening tip with bellowing chants from a jam-packed student section. When Mick Cronin left his bench after the first stoppage, the crowd showered the UCLA coach in boos.

UCLA's Tyger Campbell drives to the basket against USC's Boogie Ellis during the first half.

UCLA’s Tyger Campbell drives to the basket against USC’s Boogie Ellis during the first half.

(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

The raucous atmosphere, coupled with a stingy Trojans defense, gave the Bruins fits to start.

The rivals traded punches early, each working out its own nervous energy. But as USC began to heat up from the perimeter, UCLA went cold, hitting just three of 14 during one 10-minute stretch. The slump spotted the Trojans a first-half lead that grew as large as eight before the Bruins fired their way back, cutting the lead to just two before halftime.

A scorching Campbell was UCLA’s only solace for much of the first half. The junior point guard scored 16 points, carrying the Bruins when they needed him most. While the rest of UCLA’s offense opened tentatively from the field, Campbell knocked down two key threes in the final two minutes of the half to keep USC from building an even larger lead.





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