Travis Wear walked off Pauley Pavilion’s court with tunnel vision. He knew what was happening behind him but didn’t dare turn around.
“I heard them but I didn’t want to look at them,” UCLA’s redshirt junior forward said.
They were a jubilant bench full of USC Trojans who had just beaten the Bruins on their home floor Wednesday, 75-71, in overtime.
Less than a week prior to the loss to USC, UCLA toppled a top 10 team in Arizona. The team has now lost three of its last four games.
“We can be really, really good at times and we can be really, really bad…” said redshirt senior guard Larry Drew II.
USC – who fired its coach earlier this month – entered halftime with an eight-point lead that quickly turned into 15. The Bruins (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12) went on a 7-2 run at the end of regulation aided by a crowd of 12,821, but couldn’t hang on through the overtime period.
The Trojans (9-13, 4-5) scored the game’s final six points to break a four-game losing streak in the rivalry. USC had five players score in double figures and its bench outscored UCLA’s 24-7. UCLA coach Ben Howland held himself accountable after the game for not using his bench properly.
“We knew we were going to get their best game,” Wear said. “They gave it their all … . You’re going at it for bragging rights. It’s not surprising that they played the way they did.”
UCLA had doubted whether two of its top three scorers, freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad (flu-like symptoms) and Wear (concussion), would be available for Wednesday’s game. Muhammad received two liters of IV fluid before the game but still led the Bruins in scoring with 22 points.
Not even Wear could save UCLA in the rebounding column as the Bruins were beat on the glass for the second straight game. UCLA also allowed USC to shoot over 40 percent.
The Bruins, conversely, shot 38 percent and made just two of 19 3-pointers.
“Open-floor-fast break is what we do but we can’t do that if we don’t get stops and rebounds,” Drew said.
Both teams wore alternate uniforms, the Trojans in black and the Bruins in all blue as the game was billed as a “blue out.”
“We brought out the all blue everything looking fly, but it don’t mean nothing if you don’t go out there and win,” Drew said.
Howland said his team would have to do “some soul searching to find our way back.”
“We need to come to practice and go at each other’s throats,” Wear said.
“That’s how we’re going to get better.”
Email Strong at firstname.lastname@example.org.