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UCLA pulls itself together for ugly win over USC in Pac-12 tourney

The Bruins beat the Trojans, 55-40, to advance to second round of Pacific Life Pac-12 tournament. UCLA faces Arizona on Thursday.

March 07, 2012|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA's David Wear pulls down an offensive rebound in front of USC's Greg Allen during the second half of the Bruins' 55-40 victory Wednesday in the opening round of the Pac-12 conference tournament at Staples Center.
UCLA's David Wear pulls down an offensive rebound in front of USC's… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

UCLA's Jerime Anderson got a split lip, which required a couple of stitches to close. Teammate Lazeric Jones shot a free throw that looked even uglier, with the ball not reaching the rim.

David Wear missed a dunk. Joshua Smith missed the bus.

There were enough isolated incidents to keep the social media world humming.

But the lesson to be learned from the Bruins' 55-40 victory over injury-ravaged USC Wednesday was that someone has to win. UCLA (19-13) will play Arizona (21-10) in the second round of the Pacific Life Pac-12 Conference tournament at Staples Center.

"I'm glad we got this one out of the way," forward David Wear said.

The Bruins received the next best thing to a first-round bye in drawing USC (6-26), which finished the regular season with nine consecutive losses and six scholarship players healthy. UCLA got another break, when it was announced that Arizona point guard Josiah Turner has been suspended for violating team rules.

But asked if UCLA can win again with a repeat performance, Wear said, "I don't believe so."

Wednesday's effort was summed up with a shrug and the comment from Jones, "It was just another game for us."

Actually, the Bruins outdid themselves in some areas.

Smith sat out the first half after being four minutes late for the bus that drove the team the one block from the hotel to the arena. He got to the arena before his teammates.

The Wear and Jones blooper shots were symbolic of the Bruins' overall play.

UCLA players seemed to want to leave the first half behind them so badly, they started to leave the court with one second left.

Yet all that was wiped away when UCLA went on a 17-4 run to start the second half that gave it a third victory over USC this season.

Even Anderson's fat lip, courtesy of a Greg Allen elbow, was a forgive-and-forget moment.

"It's just a couple of stitches," Anderson said.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland was not surprised by the Bruins' meandering.

"I think it was us coming out knowing we had beaten them twice and thinking this was going to be easy," Howland said.

The Bruins should have learned by now that nothing comes easy in a season marked by the turmoil caused by Reeves Nelson, a Sports Illustrated story about troubles in the program, and a fifth-place finish in a conference they were picked to win.

"With the way the whole season has gone, it was important for us to get this win," said Jones, who had a team-high 15 points.

It won't be going in the scrapbooks.

The Bruins made seven of 25 shots in the first half, which included Wear's dunk attempt off the heel of the rim and an airball on a layup try by Jones. When Jones came up short on a free throw five minutes into the game, a pattern was forming.

USC led, 19-11, before UCLA closed the half with a 11-2 run for a 22-21 lead.

"I didn't think we were starting to panic," Jones said. "But I felt we calmed down eventually."

From where Smith sat, there was frustration.

"It was hard to watch from the bench," he said. "I just wanted to go there and help."

Smith played eight minutes in the second half. His layup and free throw gave UCLA a 36-25 lead with 15 minutes left. He then picked up three fouls in one minute.

By then, USC had resumed its doormat role. The Trojans shot 28.8% for the game.

"That's kind of been the story of our season," USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said.

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