Ben Bolch (LA Times) — USC is still in the running for the Pac-12 title.
It took a dramatic finish to keep the Trojans’ hopes alive Saturday, Tahj Eaddy (above) taking an inbounds pass from Ethan Anderson and draining a corner three-pointer with one second left.
UCLA’s Jules Bernard got off a desperation shot that was off the mark at the buzzer, completing the Bruins’ third consecutive collapse Saturday afternoon during the Trojans’ wild 64-63 triumph at Pauley Pavilion.
This time, UCLA lost an 11-point halftime lead as well as an eight-point advantage with five minutes left, failing to show the toughness that Mick Cronin said his team needed in taut games.
UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Bernard both missed the front end of one-and-one situations in the final minute that could have padded the Bruins’ lead.
USC (21-6 overall, 15-5 Pac-12) is assured of finishing no worse than second in the conference and could win it if Oregon State beats Oregon on Sunday in Corvallis. The Trojans swarmed Eaddy after his winning shot ended UCLA’s 18-game home winning streak and extended USC’s winning streak in the cross-town rivalry to four games.
With its third consecutive agonizing setback, UCLA (17-8, 13-6) assured itself of finishing fourth in the conference standings. The Bruins will play Oregon State in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal game Thursday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Trailing for almost the entire game, the Trojans drew to within 61-60 with 2:25 left after Evan Mobley blocked a Jaquez spinning layup and Drew Peterson drained a three-pointer in transition.
UCLA’s Cody Riley made a long jumper to extend the Bruins’ advantage to 63-60 but the Trojans had a chance to tie the score when coach Andy Enfield called a timeout with 55 seconds left.
Mobley had a shot blocked by Riley and missed a three-pointer, and the Trojans fouled UCLA’s Jaquez. But Jaquez missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Trojans got the ball back with 39 seconds left.
Chevez Goodwin got fouled on a jumper that almost went in and made one of two free throws to trim the Bruins’ lead to 63-61. USC fouled Bernard with 11 seconds left and he missed the front end of the one and one. Eaddy went down along the baseline and the Bruins tied him up, forcing a jump ball that went to USC with 3.7 seconds left to set up Anderson’s inbounds pass.
UCLA played without leading scorer Johnny Juzang, the sophomore guard who tweaked his right ankle in practice Friday.
Mobley had 13 points and Goodwin and Eaddy added 12 apiece for the Trojans.
UCLA played perhaps its most inspired opening half of the season, locked in on both sides of the court while building a 36-25 halftime lead. The Bruins’ final play of the half, coming out of a timeout, was perfectly executed.
Shooting guard Jake Kyman served as a decoy, drawing the defense on the wing before finding David Singleton in the corner for a three-pointer. Singleton had a team-high nine points off the bench in the first half, making three of four three-pointers.
The Trojans were screaming mad after falling behind 20-7, assistant coach Chris Capko yelling at players in the timeout huddle and pointing to the scoreboard after UCLA came out insanely hot, making eight of its first 10 shots.
UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell was slapping hands and receiving a tender pat on the head after throwing a bounce pass to Mac Etienne for a dunk that forced USC coach Andy Enfield to call timeout.
The Trojans rallied, working the ball inside and getting a nifty drive from Evan Mobley to cap a 9-1 run that pulled them within 21-16. UCLA put the clamps on USC for the rest of the half, Jaylen Clark intercepting a pass into the post and taking a charge on Isaiah Mobley.
The Trojans hurt themselves by missing all six three-pointers in the first half as well as four of their nine free throws.
Juzang warmed up with his teammates, testing his ankle through a hard sprint. A team spokesman said he was available to play off the bench. The Bruins went with a two-post starting lineup in Juzang’s absence, pairing Etienne with Riley.
USC was also short-handed with senior starting guard Isaiah White unable to play because of back spasms.
The Bruins honored Chris Smith before the game, presenting the senior guard with a framed jersey in honor of his final appearance inside Pauley Pavilion. He suffered a torn knee ligament on Dec. 31 and was lost for the season.
His teammates couldn’t give him a happy sendoff.
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