USC rolls over rival UCLA 95-71 in Pac-12 tournament
LAS VEGAS (AP) Southern California boosted its NCAA Tournament resume and accomplished something it had not done since 1942.
Not a bad way to kick off the Pac-12 tournament.
Bennie Boatwright scored 19 points, Jordan McLaughlin added 18 and USC beat rival UCLA for the third time this season, rolling over the Bruins 95-71 on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament.
''(We) haven't been a great team the entire season, but when we play like this, we can beat anybody on our schedule,'' Trojans coach Andy Enfield said.
USC (21-11) raced away from the Bruins from the opening tip, shooting its way to a 19-point halftime lead and into Thursday's quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Utah.
Boatwright hit 5 of 9 from 3-point range and the seventh-seeded Trojans went 11 for 23 beyond the arc to win three straight games over the Bruins in the same season for the first time since 1942. USC had not beaten UCLA three times in a season since going 3-1 in 1954.
Nikola Jovanovic had 16 points, and Chimezie Metu finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the fifth-seeded Trojans.
''We knew coming in we need to win games in order to stay in the tournament, so every day's a fight,'' Jovanovic said. ''It really means a lot to us, especially because it was UCLA for the energy booster.''
Thomas Welsh had 12 points to lead the 10th-seeded Bruins (15-17), who were outrebounded 52-29 to cap a difficult end to a season that started with so much promise.
''We just couldn't find the right buttons and the right things to press to get this team to play at the level they've got to play at,'' UCLA coach Steve Alford said. ''Hopefully there's been a lot of maturity and growing through all this, and hopefully we'll do everything we can to rectify things.''
USC appeared to be in decent shape for the NCAA Tournament before limping to the finish with six losses in its final eight regular-season games.
UCLA was left with one option to play in the NCAAs: Win the Pac-12 tournament.
The Bruins went into a tailspin late in the Pac-12 season, losing their final four games and nine of 12.
USC raced out to the lead in the rivals' third meeting, scoring the first 11 points and stretching the lead to 48-29 by halftime.
The Trojans did most of their damage from the 3-point arc, hitting 8 of 15 while shooting 47 percent overall. Julian Jacobs fueled their offense, scoring 11 points while dishing out seven assists in the first half.
UCLA started slow and never really recovered. The Bruins made 10 of 34 shots, 1 of 7 from 3-point range and Bryce Alford, their floor leader, had two points on 0-for-5 shooting and no assists before intermission.
Little changed in the second half.
UCLA shot a little better and USC a little worse, but the Trojans' lead was never challenged.
''The product that we've had over the last two months was not the product that I wanted,'' Steve Alford said. ''It's not what the coaches want, it's not what the team wanted.''
USC: The Trojans beat UCLA four times during the 1942 season. ... Jacobs finished with 11 points and nine assists.
UCLA: Isaac Hamilton, the Pac-12's third-leading scorer, had nine points on 3-of-12 shooting. ... Alford finished with 11 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
USC faces No. 12 Utah in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
UCLA must wait to see if it will get an invite to another postseason tournament.