Boogie Ellis scores 24 as USC surges in second half to stun rival UCLA

Kobe Johnson pulled the corners of his jersey out, flashing the three gold letters across his chest toward the blue-clad crowd.

UCLA fans at Pauley Pavilion could only turn their backs on the way out the doors.

The Trojans avenged their rivalry loss from January on Saturday, blitzing UCLA with 10 consecutive points to start the second half for a 62-56 victory at Pauley Pavilion. USC (11-16, 5-11 Pac-12) won its first game at Pauley Pavilion since 2021 and coach Andy Enfield moved into a tie for third on the program’s all-time wins list with his 216th victory.

After making a habit of ceding leads this season, USC gave up another double-digit advantage but responded by forcing 12 UCLA turnovers in the second half and holding the Bruins (14-13, 9-7) to 33.3% shooting from the field.

The loss, UCLA’s second consecutive at home following a heartbreaker to Utah at the buzzer last Sunday, knocked the Bruins off the NCAA tournament bubble for good, barring a championship run in the conference tournament. Already long out of the NCAA tournament picture, the rivalry win helps USC continue to build momentum with a finally healthy roster.

“Just using all these games to get us ready for the Pac-12 tournament. We know we have to win out there,” said guard Boogie Ellis, who led USC with 24 points in his first win at Pauley Pavilion.

Johnson led USC’s defensive effort with four steals and three rebounds. The junior captain, who was shooting a career-worst 27.9% from three-point range this season, hit a dagger three to put the Trojans up by 11 with 2:54 left.

Forward Adem Bona led the Bruins with 14 points on five-for-five shooting but grabbed just three rebounds in 24 foul-plagued minutes. The Trojans, one of the worst rebounding teams in the Pac-12, kept pace on the boards with a relatively small five-rebound deficit after getting outrebounded by 25 against Colorado last Saturday.

“It’s a simple game: the team that plays harder usually wins,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “They played much harder than us. They were more physical, they had humility, they came in here looking for redemption.”

USC watched a 14-point lead turn into a tie by halftime as UCLA finished the first half on a 15-1 run. The Bruins worked the sold-out crowd into a frenzy while holding USC scoreless for the final 3:09 of the first half. They pushed the ball up the court quickly off USC’s missed shots. Lazar Stefonovic hit a corner three and waved to the crowd when he cut the lead to four. A put-back dunk by Bona got the Bruins to within two. Sebastian Mack roared when he tipped in his missed shot to tie the score with 11 seconds left in the first half.

USC’s mistakes only fed UCLA’s momentum. The Trojans missed three free throws during the scoreless drought. They gave up two offensive rebounds.

Then they calmly collected themselves in the locker room and sprinted to a 44-34 lead before the Bruins scored another point. UCLA didn’t get its first field goal of the second half until the 13:10 mark on a hook shot by Aday Mara.

“I feel like this year we haven’t been too good when teams make their runs,” Ellis said, “[So we focused on] staying poised and getting good shots.”

Ellis scored just eight points in the January rivalry matchup in his first game back from a three-game absence because of a hamstring injury. He gutted through six games but acknowledged he lacked his usual explosiveness. Enfield said the guard who ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring last season “looked like older than me trying to play.”

“He had no explosiveness,” Enfield said. “He had no change in speed, no change in directions.”

Ellis finally found his form last week with 30 points against Colorado. He breathed a sigh of relief for himself after a difficult two-month rehabilitation process while also lifting USC’s hopes ahead of the Pac-12 tournament.

“It was getting very frustrating for me, but I just stuck with it,” Ellis said. “There are a lot of slow players in the NBA, so you don’t have to be fast to beat people off the dribble. So [it’s about] just having an impact, doing other things.”

Ellis did that Saturday. He smiled wide after the game upon hearing that his five rebounds tied for the team lead.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top