USC Tops UCLA, 65-55
March 13, 2009
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Freshman DeMar DeRozan had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Southern California forced UCLA into its worst shooting performance of the season Friday night, upsetting the 15th-ranked Bruins 65-55 in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals.
Dwight Lewis added 14 points and Taj Gibson had 13 points and 11 rebounds to send the Trojans (20-12) into Saturday's championship game against No. 23 Arizona State (24-8). The teams split their regular-season meetings.
Josh Shipp scored 19 points and Nikola Dragovic added 12 for the Bruins (25-8), who shot 27 percent (19-of-70) from the field and trailed the entire game. They swept the Trojans in the regular season, but were denied a second straight berth in the tourney title game as their five-game winning streak ended.
The sixth-seeded Trojans needed a big win to bolster their NCAA tournament hopes, and their defense delivered.
They shut down senior Darren Collison, UCLA's leading scorer who was held to 4 points - 10 under his average in his final Pac-10 tourney. He also had four in a win against the Trojans on Feb. 4.
The Bruins were forced into shooting from the perimeter, and they were off the mark repeatedly.
The Trojans opened the game on a 20-9 run, with Lewis hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and DeRozan dunking twice to the raucous cheers of USC's fans.
The Bruins struggled offensively, hitting 9-of-29 from the field in the half and getting just two free throws from Collison. Their 31 percent shooting was the worst in a half this season, and got worse over the final 20 minutes.
But the second-seeded Bruins kept scrambling and outscored USC 19-13, including 10 points by Shipp, to end the half trailing 33-28. On their final possession, Collison missed a 3-pointer, but a couple of freshmen bailed him out. Jrue Holiday grabbed the offensive rebound and Malcolm Lee's tipin beat the buzzer.
Shipp opened the second half with a 3-pointer that cut UCLA's deficit to 33-31. The Bruins never got that close again.
DeRozan hit a 3-pointer and Daniel Hackett made a free throw with 2:44 remaining for a 57-42 lead, USC's largest of the game.
The Bruins made one final rally over the final 2 1/2 minutes, outscoring USC 13-8 to end the game, but it didn't matter.
The outcome was a reversal of last year's semifinal meeting between the crosstown rivals, when UCLA won 57-54 and went on to beat Stanford for the championship. The win also allowed USC to avenge its worst loss of the season, a 76-60 defeat on UCLA's home court Feb. 4.
The Trojans earned their 20th victory for the third consecutive season, a first-time feat at the school best known for its national championship-caliber football team under coach Pete Carroll, who was on hand. Former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian sat next to actor Denzel Washington, and dozens of NBA scouts were in attendance.
USC ended February with six losses in seven games, but the Trojans have won four in a row to revive their postseason chances. They advanced to the league tourney title game for the first time in two years, and will try to win it for the first time after three runner-up finishes.