USC enters UCLA rematch bolstered by experience, Vincent Iwuchukwu
Trojans know what and who they were missing in their crosstown men’s basketball loss to the Bruins three weeks ago…
Vincent Iwuchukwu looks on from the court at the Galen Center. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — LOS ANGELES — One defensive rebound. That’s all that stood between USC men’s basketball and an upset win over UCLA in Pauley Pavilion three weeks ago. One defensive rebound, and the Bruins would have no choice but to foul the leading Trojans, who could then extend their lead with free throws.
Instead, no one boxed out David Singleton, who ran in from the corner to grab the loose ball and pass it to Jaylen Clark for the go-ahead 3-pointer. And the Trojans’ second-half comeback was for naught.
As the Trojans prepare for the rematch against their crosstown rivals Thursday at Galen Center, they hope someone who did not play in the first matchup can make a big difference.
Since USC and No. 8 UCLA last met, freshman center Vincent Iwuchukwu has arrived. The former five-star recruit did not play in the first 16 games of this season after surviving cardiac arrest during a summer workout. He made his debut after the UCLA loss, against Colorado, but was a step slow in his first two games as his body caught up with his teammates’.
But last week, Iwuchukwu started to find his feet. He scored his first career points against Arizona, then officially announced himself in USC’s win against Arizona State. He scored 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. He also blocked a shot and had a thunderous put-back dunk, all in 14 minutes off the bench.
“I almost got a tech and my man almost scored on the other end [while] I’m over there celebrating with him,” fellow USC freshman Tre White said. “They cooked me in film for that, but I’m with you, Vince, I’m with you.”
In the matchup against UCLA, Iwuchukwu provides what USC missed three weeks ago: size.
With Joshua Morgan having an off night, UCLA freshman forward Adem Bona had his way in the paint in the first half. The Bruins won the rebounding margin 36-30, and of course there was that last fateful miss on the glass.
Though Iwuchukwu is still on a minutes restriction as his health continues to be monitored, teammates are noticing the difference he makes behind them on the defensive end of the court.
“Sometimes you do your hardest to run guys off the line and lock up, but when I have Vince out there, and Josh and all our big men, I feel like I have a safety net out to where if I do get beat I know he’s going to protect shots, block them and things like that,” White said.
“I think he’s finding his timing. He’s certainly improved dramatically since the Colorado game,” Trojans head coach Andy Enfield added. “When Vince is playing at that level, it helps our team. I think both teams are pretty evenly matched, and it’s going to come down to what team executes the best and who plays the hardest.”
It will still be Iwuchukwu’s first taste of the rivalry. But for all the underclassmen who seemed rattled in the first half against UCLA three weeks ago, there’s a sense that they benefitted from that experience and won’t be surprised by the rivalry environment.
“You hear about the rivalry, but actually being inside of it, it’s a totally different atmosphere,” White said. “Experience does help, but it was really on us. We had chances where we locked them, but we didn’t do our little, small things to execute. But I feel like this game, we got some games under our belt, we got that energy and we’re ready for it.”
No. 8 UCLA (17-3, 8-1 Pac-12) at USC (14-6, 6-3)
When: Thursday, 6 p.m.
Where: Galen Center
TV/Radio: ESPN2/790 AM/570 AM
Still trying to process how we could outscore fucla by 25 POINTS in the 2nd half!!
I am beginning to believe in this team. Huge win over one of the nations best teams.
The true frosh center is the real deal AND Ellis got very hot AND UCLA went cold (our D helped, but UCLA went cold). We will find out how good this team is in about another three weeks. It needs to play the AZ teams again and Utah.
Boogie hitting the long ball….
USC, down 12 at half, beats UCLA 77-64 with another massive 2nd half-comeback. Boogie Ellis stars with 27 points in 2nd half, 31 total.
Boogie outscored the Bruins all-by-himself in the second half. USC defense shut the Bruins down. This team is growing in confidence and now that we have Vincent Iwuchukwu we are finally at full strength. We also have the #1 recuit in the country coming to USC next year. Woo, this was exciting.
John, They actually made FTs down the stretch! I turned it off at the end of the 1st half, figuring the game was over. I then checked ESPN and saw we were back in it and so watched the last 10 minutes. This team can be very good, but Ellis is streaky. If he is hot, this team is probably unbeatable. If not, I expect not so much. It would be nice if we had a rematch with the Bruins in the league championship game. But, we have to beat AZ first.
I am hoping that Allen Wallace got to see the game and watch the team knockdown free throws to seal the victory. There are 3 guys shooting above 80% at the charity stripe.
I’ve never seen USC make so many consecutive free throws. Loved every second of it! ✌
I turned the game off at half as well, then I fell asleep as we are an hour ahead here in Northwest Arizona. I had it on mute because I can’t stand to hear Bill Walton. I’m sure Andy Enfield is happy that his team made the FTs. Andy held the NCAA record for career FT percentage when he played college ball at Johns Hopkins. His USC teams have struggled at the free throw line and that must drive him crazy. Great win for USC! Beat the Wildcats!!
When ucla climbed back to within 3 points I kind of figured that USC would “coug it”. I kept waiting but then Boogie took control and they never looked back. Great ending to a great comeback win.
Great crowd at the Galen Center…..
UPDATE: 4-star CB (and USC target) Rodrick Pleasant (5-11, 180; Gardena Serra) no longer expected to take visit to Eugene Ducks Wire (Zachary Neal) UPDATE: “I have received new information that shows the Oregon Ducks are no longer expecting 4-star cornerback Rodrick Pleasant on a recruiting visit this coming weekend. “Earlier, I reported that Dan Lanning and the Ducks were expecting to get the high-profile target — ranked as the No. 6 CB in the 2023 class — on campus for the final weekend ahead of signing day. After that initial report, conflicting information came in and I can now… Read more »
Rodrick is in Big Bear this weekend for a retreat with his high school.
Another potential USC Portal target — IU DL Sio Nofoagatoto’a (6-3, 315; Three-Star/Clearwater Academy International, FL; entered Portal on 1/13)
TheDailyHoosier.com — Sio Nofoagatoto’a – DL: Nofoagatoto’a has been a key part of the defense in the trenches for each of the last four seasons. He was a starter in 2022 and played in 41 games at defensive tackle and had 52 tackles including four for a loss and a pass defensed for his career. He has one year of eligibility left to use.”
ORE ST is also recruiting.
Allen, I agree he would be a wonderful addition and is really needed. But, we need to cut five kids to be able to add just him. The team is really jammed. If they add five HS kids on 2/01 and add this guy, they will need to cut 10 kids off the present roster. The roster will be a lot stronger, but where do we cut that many kids?
That’s what they pay LR the big bucks to figure out. USC still needs more help on D, and a NG/DT-type in the middle remains a priority I assume. How much USC really likes this guy, IDK?
Teams routinely find space for players they need every year. I just doubt USC is done with the Portal yet, but I don’t keep track of USC’s ever-changing roster numbers.
How about replacing their scholarship with an NIL deal? I have wondered why that doesn’t start happening more.