LAS VEGAS, Nev. — UCLA controlled the action for much of the opening period, but a late-half push from USC trimmed the UCLA lead to 38-35 entering halftime of the rivals’ Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal matchup Thursday night.
The Bruins led by 14 points with five minutes to go after senior guard Bryce Alford drilled his UCLA-record 318th career 3-pointer, but the Trojans charged back to trim the deficit to just three points.
USC struggled offensively against UCLA’s 3-2 zone defense, shooting just 32 percent for the half, but 10 Bruin turnovers gave the Trojans a wealth of opportunities.
Senior guard Isaac Hamilton spearheaded the Bruins’ offensive attack with 13 points, but didn’t score over the final nine minutes of the period.
Freshman forward T.J. Leaf, playing for the first time since spraining his ankle March 1, quickly alleviated all doubts about his health, posting up on the Bruins’ first possession and springing for a thunderous dunk. Leaf had four points and four rebounds in the opening half.
UCLA dominated the glass, outrebounding USC 25-16, thanks to six boards from junior center Thomas Welsh and five from freshman forward Ike Anigbogu.
Welsh added eight points and a pair of blocks, using his seven-foot frame to at times overpower the Trojans’ big men.
Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball sat for an extended stretch after picking up two quick fouls, but still tallied eight points, three assists and two rebounds.
After USC pulled to within five late in the half, Ball drilled a pair of 3-pointers, the second from well beyond the arc, to extend UCLA’s cushion. The Trojans would close the half on an 8-0 run, though.