Crosstown rivals clash in Pac-12 Conference play when No. 10 UCLA welcomes Southern California to make the short trek to the west side of Los Angeles on Thursday.
UCLA (13-2, 4-0 Pac-12) ran its ongoing winning streak to 10 games with a road sweep of Washington State and Washington.
The Bruins did not have to sweat out their defeat of Washington on New Year’s Day, unleashing a stifling defensive onslaught en route to a 74-49 blowout victory. UCLA held Washington to 2-of-25 shooting from 3-point range (8.0 percent) and 19-of-55 shooting from the floor (34.5 percent).
Sunday’s romp was in stark contrast to the Bruins’ first win on the weekend road swing, a 67-66 escape from Washington State in which UCLA rallied from down nine points with less than eight minutes remaining.
The Bruins trailed almost wire-to-wire, but Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s late-game aggression — scoring eight points in the final 6:27 — helped bridge the gap and keep UCLA’s winning streak going.
“The (holiday) break had a reset for us. I don’t want to say (it) slowed down our momentum, but it was a little odd for us,” Jaquez said. “We have a good time to get back and understand what we need to work on and continue to do to keep getting better as a team. We came out a little flat against Washington State (but) tried to come out (against Washington) and change that.”
After regaining its groove at Seattle, UCLA looks to build upon that with its first game at home since Dec. 21 in a victory over UC Davis. Jaquez said he is “always excited for the USC game,” and for returning to Pauley Pavilion.
The Trojans (11-4, 3-1) enter fresh off having their own winning streak snapped. USC went into Sunday’s matchup at Washington State having won seven straight on the season, and victorious in every meeting with the Cougars since February 2016.
However, the Trojans were unable to replicate UCLA’s showing at Washington State and overcome an early deficit, falling 81-71.
“Our defense wasn’t as good as it normally has been,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Offensively, we didn’t do what we needed to do.”
USC allowed an opponent to reach 80 points for the first time this season. The Trojans rank fourth nationally in 2-point field-goal percentage surrendered at 41.5, thanks in part to the 12th-best shot-blocking average: 15.2 percent of all defensive possessions, per KenPom.com analytics.
The Cougars opted to negate USC’s interior defense and the shot-altering presence of Joshua Morgan with a 3-point onslaught. Morgan went into Washington State averaging three blocked shots per game.
USC can anticipate another dangerous 3-point-shooting offense on Thursday. UCLA is shooting 37.2 percent from long range as a team, with Tyger Campbell (24), Jaylen Clark (11) and David Singleton (34) having connected on double-digit makes from beyond the arc.
Along with Jaquez, each of the Bruins’ threesome averages in double-figures scoring on the season. USC counters with four leading scorers putting up at least 9.3 points per game: Tre White (9.3), Reese Dixon-Waters (9.5), Drew Peterson (14.0) and Boogie Ellis (16.1).
–Field Level Media