Greeted during warm-ups with disrespectful taunts and the sarcastic query, "Got any plans for March?" USC was treated even more rudely once the game started Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA overpowered the Trojans, 89-72, in front of 12,583 to remain in a virtual first-place tie in the Pacific 10 Conference race.
USC remained. . . .
"Last place," thoughtfully reminded Bruin students.
Keeping the Trojans in their place--or at least the position they've occupied the past four seasons--was UCLA's Don MacLean, a sophomore forward who scored a season-high 35 points and had eight rebounds.
When he was the Pac-10 freshman of the year, MacLean played his worst game of the season against USC, making one of nine shots. He scored a season-low six points and had a season-low three rebounds before fouling out after 22 minutes in UCLA's 68-65 victory at Pauley.
In recent weeks, MacLean has been on a roll.
After making more than 50% of his shots only once in the Bruins' first five games, he has averaged 25.4 points and eight rebounds in the past five while shooting 61% from the field, making 47 of 77 shots.
Against USC, he was 13 of 17.
"I felt really comfortable right from the get-go, and the shots kept falling for me," he said.
They didn't fall as frequently at the start of the season, MacLean said, because he had other things on his mind.
"I had some stuff going on outside basketball that was taking away from my game," he said. "I was able to put that aside about five games ago, and I've been able to concentrate and start playing.
"My concentration's been really good and it's shown in my shooting percentage more than anything else."
Trevor Wilson added 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Bruins, who improved to 9-1 and 3-0 in the Pac-10, moving a half-game ahead of Oregon and Oregon State, both of whom are 2-0.
USC is 5-4 and 0-3.
UCLA, which made 52.1% of its shots and limited USC to 42.6% shooting, led at halftime, 45-34, and never by fewer than 10 points in the second half.
"They played a very good game," USC Coach George Raveling said of the Bruins, who are 7-0 against the Trojans in Raveling's four seasons. "It was the best against us since I've been at SC."
Most of the damage was done by MacLean and Wilson, who make up the best forward tandem in the Pac-10.
And the nation?
"I wouldn't say they're the best," UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said, "but I'd say they're among the top five."
As a team, UCLA is ranked 15th, but improving.
"We're in a groove and playing pretty decently," Harrick said. "Our progress each week has been very gratifying."
USC Forward Ronnie Coleman, who played under Harrick last summer for a Pac-10 all-star team touring Hungary, scored 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting and added 15 rebounds, both career highs.
"He had it in for me," Harrick said. "I helped his game so much that he went out and got 27 points and 15 rebounds against me."
Freshman guard Harold Miner, who scored 61 points in two games last week for the Trojans, scored 15 against the Bruins, but made only six of 20 shots and really wasn't much of a factor until the outcome was decided.
"I thought we defended him very well," said Harrick, crediting Gerald Madkins and Mitchell Butler. "He got 15, but he didn't hurt us."
Not much at all hurt the Bruins.
Wilson gave credit to the crowd.
"The whole aura around the stadium (created) a high-energy level, and it carried over to the players," Wilson said.
UCLA, which got 11 points from Darrick Martin, steadily pulled away from the Trojans, who made a season-high 20 turnovers and were repeatedly beaten down the court.
UCLA moved out to a 35-20 lead, and it was never close after that as the Bruins scored their most lopsided win over the Trojans in 10 seasons.
Newcomers Tracy Murray and Mitchell Butler have worked themselves into UCLA's eight-man rotation, but freshman forward Zan Mason has played only 38 minutes in 10 games. "As I explained to him, I'm not very comfortable with my forwards out of the game," Coach Jim Harrick said of starters Don MacLean and Trevor Wilson. "As long as I've got them, they're probably going to play. I like to sit in my chair and be comfortable, and during a game, I'm a lot more comfortable when they're not sitting there with me."
Describing the Bruins as the most potent offensive team in the Pac-10, USC Coach George Raveling said this week: "UCLA is the only team in the conference whose first six players are capable of scoring 20 points." . . . Raveling, on the recent emergence of freshman guard Harold Miner: "He came out of a system where everything revolved around him, and now it doesn't. It takes a while to adjust to that kind of play."
Harrick, on the status of Carlton Gray, a cornerback on the football team who was expected to play basketball: "I asked him (last month) to talk to (football Coach (Terry) Donahue, and I haven't seen him since."
Jeff Bronner, a UCLA walk-on who will transfer next week to UC Riverside, said he made the move for one reason. "I've got a burn to play," said Bronner, a sophomore guard who played 31 minutes in 12 games last season. Because he had not played this season, Bronner will be eligible for almost three full seasons at Riverside, starting in December at the end of the fall quarter. . . . Up next: USC plays Notre Dame Saturday night at the Sports Arena; UCLA plays eighth-ranked Louisville Sunday in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS starting at 1 p.m., PST.
Notre Dame, the only team that has beaten UCLA, is also the only team that has made more than 50% of its shots against the Bruins. . . . Kevin Williams, a junior guard who started nine games for UCLA last season, played for the first time, contributing one assist in one minute.