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February 9, 2014

UCLA uses second-half rally to blow out USC

The last time UCLA faced its crosstown rival USC, the Bruins mauled the Trojans by 34 points, 107-73, in Pauley Pavilion.

As UCLA discovered very early on Saturday, history wasn't guaranteed to repeat itself, particularly on its rival's home court.

From their first possession, the Bruins struggled to find offensive rhythm in the first half.

Sophomore guard Jordan Adams turned the ball over 14 seconds into the game, which allowed USC's Byron Wesley to score the game's first points and put the Trojans ahead.

Adams and fellow sophomore Kyle Anderson then combined for 10 points to give UCLA a 10-6 lead with 16:24 left in the half. Both guards had 10 points at the half.

However, UCLA's stagnant offense allowed USC to string together nine unanswered points that gave the Trojans an early five-point lead, 15-10, with 13:20 remaining in the first period.

The Trojans' lead proved insurmountable for the Bruins for the remainder of the first half.

With USC's junior guard Byron Wesley knocking down nearly every shot he took, the Trojans increased their lead to as many as 10. Wesley finished the first half with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including a pristine 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. He scored 27 on the night.

The Bruins narrowed the margin slightly before the half, but were trailing 41-35, when the halftime buzzer sounded.

A subpar half culminated with UCLA shooting 37.1 percent from the field. USC, conversely, shot 59.3 percent. That discrepancy alone was enough to bewilder the Bruins heading into the locker room, as their record entering Saturday's contest was 1-4 when they shot worse from the field than their opponent. They were 15-0 when they shot better from the field.

Trailing by six points to a team that it led by 22 points in their first meeting, UCLA's halftime locker room featured quite a few escalated voices. Head coach Steve Alford made sure his players knew he wasn't pleased with their first-half effort.

"I didn't like the looks on faces," Alford said. "You come off a loss, you're a little doubting yourself or doubting the situation. We let them strike first."

"Coach Alford ... yelled at me, Norman, and Kyle ... about our defense and our effort 'cause we're the main leaders," Adams said. "We were fine with getting chewed out. We're used to it."

With a fire lit beneath them, the Bruins came out surging in the second half.

Forward Travis Wear, who had four points in the entire first half, scored five unanswered points to begin the second half, and within two minutes, UCLA took the lead. Wear finished with 11 points, his second double-figure scoring effort in the Bruins' last three games.

"The second half, we came out with a much different demeanor," Alford said. "The whole team had great energy to start the second half. We made some shots early, but I thought the key was our defensive stops."

USC snagged the lead back from UCLA with 16:38 remaining, but the Bruins' spark plug, Norman Powell, then netted a jumper that set UCLA off on a defining run.

After David Wear made a pair of free-throws that put UCLA up 49-46 with 15:42 left, Powell then threw down an authoritative dunk, which he followed up with a three-pointer on the Bruins' ensuing possession.

"I'm just out here trying to help my team in any way possible doing the little things, whether it's getting steals, getting easy rebounds, [or] getting easy buckets in transition," the junior guard said. "That's what I did tonight, and the team fed off that."

Powell finished with a season-high 21 points, 17 of which came in the second half. He was 8-of-13 from the field; the same shooting performance as his two 19-point performances against Chattanooga and Colorado that were previously tied for his season high.

"Norman's been really good all year," Alford said. "I really appreciate his efforts. He drives the ball hard, he's a good defender, and today he made his shots."

With Powell spurting, UCLA increased its lead to 16 points, 69-53, with 7:38 left on the clock.

"The other teams ... are not really geared to try to stop him, and so he just explodes and he scores in spurts," said Adams, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.

USC's Wesley, Pe'Shon Howard (14 pts.) and J.T. Terrell (13 pts.) rallied to bring the Trojans within as few as seven, 78-71, with 1:48 left, but their efforts were all for naught.

UCLA fended off USC in the closing minutes and the Bruins completed their sweep of their crosstown rival.

"We came out differently in the second half and went on a run, and we never looked back once we got our lead," Adams said.

Adams and Powell were accompanied by Anderson, who finished two assists shy of his second career triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Anderson leads the Pac-12 with 12 double-doubles.

UCLA outshot USC 44 percent to 35.5 percent, but finished the game at 40 percent to USC's 46.6 percent. The Bruins ended with fewer made field goals than USC (UCLA: 24, USC: 27) but they outshot the Trojans from three (UCLA: 10, USC: 8) and made 14 more free-throws (UCLA: 25, USC: 11).

The Bruins' win in the Galen Center on Saturday improved its conference record to 7-3, which helped them retain sole possession of second place.

Now finished with a three-game road trip, UCLA returns to Pauley Pavilion to take on Colorado on Thursday for the first of two home games against the Rocky Mountain schools.


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