UCLA beats USC 69-59, earns spot in Pac-12 Tournament championship game
For the first time since 2014, UCLA will play for a Pac-12 championship.
That season, the Bruins beat Arizona in the final to claim the conference title. To get to this year’s title match and set up another bout with the Wildcats, UCLA would need to beat crosstown rival USC first. In the rubber match, the Bruins withstood a one-man scoring show from USC’s Boogie Ellis to do exactly that, winning Friday night 69-59.
The second-seeded Bruins got 19 points from Jaime Jaquez Jr., who continued his outstanding shooting for the fourth-straight game. They got 14 points from Tyger Campbell and 15 from Jules Bernard. Johnny Juzang started to look more like his pre-injury self, notching 10 points and five boards. As a team, the Bruins shot 49%.
They dictated the action at both ends. Plain and simple.
When it came to the offensive display, there was nothing flashy about it. The Bruins were just the tougher team. They attacked the rim and got to the free throw line. They made USC defend for full possessions all night. UCLA has options on that end, and the Bruins worked it around to get guys to their spots.
At the other end, they defended their tails off all game. They made life tough on USC’s bigs. They sent the Trojans to the foul line, knowing this was a poor foul-shooting team. USC shot 10-for-16 on free throws while UCLA went 17-for-21. The frontcourt duo of Isaiah Mobley and Chevez Goodwin combined to shoot 6-for-18.
Jaquez played Goodwin off the floor and then bullied the leaner Max Agbonkpolo down close to the cup.
After a Final Four appearance a season ago, all season long this Bruin team looked determined to build, to do the little things that would prove this program wasn’t a Cinderella-like 11 seed shocking the world but a legitimate threat to win everything. They’ve looked like the stingiest team in Vegas so far through the first three rounds.
UCLA held the Trojans to 40% shooting and forced nine turnovers. In two games at the Pac-12 Tournament now, UCLA has held opponents under 42% shooting.
Ellis finished with 27 points to lead all scorers, but it was elite shot-making combined with little else from his teammates. Drew Peterson scored 11 points on just six shots and was never able to establish himself. Three different Trojans played at least 10 minutes and failed to score a point. USC would have been lost if not for Ellis.
The Bruins did well to limit the damage in that regard. Next up: Arizona.
UCLA is one of just three teams to beat the Wildcats this season. It won at home back in January. Arizona took the rematch in Tucson a week later. “Winner takes all tomorrow,” Jaquez told FS1 after the game. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. PT on FOX.