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UCLA-USC REPORT

Trojans say it's a winning atmosphere

January 14, 2007|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

USC had played 11 games in its new building, but never before had the Galen Center rocked as it did in the final 30 seconds Saturday afternoon.

Trojans junior swingman Nick Young sent most of the season-high crowd of 9,682 into an arm-waving, foot-stomping frenzy when he converted a four-point play with 22.9 seconds left to give USC a 64-63 lead over No. 4 UCLA.

Even though the decibel level plummeted after the Bruins rallied for a 65-64 victory on Arron Afflalo's 15-foot fadeaway jump shot with 4.7 seconds left, Trojans players still marveled afterward at the home-court edge their new facility had provided.

"They brought energy, and we were feeding off their energy," USC junior guard Gabe Pruitt said of the fans. "It's a good feeling when you have support like that."

Although the game was officially considered a sellout, there were several hundred empty seats in the upper reaches of the student sections on the north end of the arena. The crowd -- about 90% of which appeared to support USC -- was 576 fans short of the building's capacity of 10,258.

Trojans senior guard Lodrick Stewart called it "by far" the best home atmosphere in his four seasons. USC had averaged 4,026 fans at home before Saturday and even fewer last season at the Sports Arena.

"I loved it," Stewart said. "It was a great atmosphere."

Said USC Coach Tim Floyd: "I thought the atmosphere was electric.... I loved to see our students there. This building will change our program."

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UCLA sophomore swingman Michael Roll, starting in place of injured sophomore swingman Josh Shipp, scored three points on one-for-six shooting, making only one of four shots from beyond the three-point arc.

But the Bruins got a step-up performance from junior center Lorenzo Mata, who made five of six shots and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Mata scored eight points in the second half, including consecutive baskets to give UCLA a 63-57 lead with 51 seconds left.

"With Josh out, I felt I had to step up," said Mata, whose only flaw continued to be difficulty making free throws. He made only two of five, missing a pair with 36 seconds left. "I feel confident with them. They just didn't fall."

Shipp, the Bruins' second-leading scorer, who has a slight hamstring tear, said he was "iffy" for UCLA's game Thursday against Arizona State at Pauley Pavilion. "Saturday looks good," he said, referring to the Bruins' game against Arizona.

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Stewart had a tribute to slain USC player Ryan Francis shaved into the back of his head. Francis, who was fatally shot last May in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., had scored 12 points last season to help the Trojans upset the then-No. 15 Bruins, 71-68, at the Sports Arena.... The Trojans retired the jersey of former USC standout and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Sharman at halftime. Sharman's No. 11 hangs from the rafters across from Cheryl Miller's No. 31 and Lisa Leslie's No. 33.... A moment of silence was held before the game in memory of USC kicker Mario Danelo, whose body was found Jan. 6 in San Pedro.... Television officials again asked USC to close the curtains at the north end of the Galen Center because they were concerned about a glare off the giant windows. The Trojans are 0-2 with the curtains closed and 0-2 wearing their gold uniforms.

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Times staff writer Robyn Norwood contributed to this report.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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