Thursday, September 21

Men’s basketball falls short in crosstown rivalry once again

It wasn’t an embarrassing loss by any means. It wasn’t a loss that had media members digging in their history books.

But the Bruins came up short of the win once again.

The UCLA (11-13, 6-6 Pac-10) and USC (15-9, 7-5) basketball teams both battled for control of a sometimes sloppy and always tense rivalry game on Sunday night, but in the end the outcome tilted towards the Trojans, 68-64.

“It is really frustrating,” senior forward Nikola Dragovic said. “And it hurts.”

Senior guard Michael Roll had a team-high 21 points for UCLA and sophomore guard Malcolm Lee contributed 13 points and 8 rebounds as well.

It was the Bruins’ first loss at the 4-year-old Galen Center, and also the first time they have been swept by their cross-town adversary in a season since 2004.

After the Trojans came to Pauley Pavilion and stamped a 21-point loss on the home team ““ their largest victory ever in the building ““ the Bruins were trying to return the favor.

“I think we matched their intensity (tonight), not like the first time we played them,” Dragovic said. “But with 20 turnovers it’s hard to beat anybody.”

UCLA dominated the boards throughout the contest, but were consistently held back by poor ball handling on the perimeter, forced by a smothering USC defense. Sophomore Malcolm Lee had six by himself, but six other Bruins contributed at least two.

“As the point guard, I just did a bad job on that one,” Lee said. “Bad plays just feed off other bad plays and that’s what was happening.”

USC came out strong in the first half on the back of senior guard Dwight Lewis’ 12 points. Lewis was giving the UCLA zone defense fits early on, and finished the game with 23 points, almost matching the 24 he dropped in the teams’ first meeting.

Despite clawing back into the game late in the first half and early in the second, the Bruins never led in the last 14 minutes.

“The guys are obviously disappointed,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We worked really hard all week to get prepared for this game.”

The team has a quick turnaround to get back on track, traveling to Pullman, Wash. on Thursday night for a meeting with Washington State.

“We’ve just got to put this one past us,” Lee said. “We can’t grief on this loss.”

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