Thursday, April 25

UCLA men’s basketball escapes with 82-79 victory over USC

Senior center Thomas Welsh scored UCLA’s last 5 points in a come-from-behind 82-79 win over USC. (Aubrey Yeo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Senior center Thomas Welsh scored UCLA’s last 5 points in a come-from-behind 82-79 win over USC. (Aubrey Yeo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

This post was updated Feb. 3 at 6:20 p.m.

The men of Troy were no match for the masked man.

Senior center Thomas Welsh, still donning a fitted face mask after breaking his nose, hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining and two free throws to ice the game with 11 seconds left.

UCLA (16-7, 7-4 Pac-12) escaped with an 82-79 come-from-behind win over USC (17-7, 8-3) Saturday afternoon after the Trojans missed several desperation 3-pointers with seconds remaining.

“We got some really big stops in the second half and I’m proud of our toughness,” said coach Steve Alford. “ For us to win, I think we’ve grown. We’ve grown a lot in the last two weeks and now we’ve got to take our show on the road.”

Whenever the game looked like it was getting out of hand, the Bruins responded. Down double digits midway through the first half, Alford’s team spun a 14-2 run to tighten the score heading into halftime.

And when UCLA was down 69-60 with about eight minutes remaining, it responded with an 11-0 run to claim the lead.

The two teams then went back and forth over the last five minutes and entered the last 90 seconds tied at 77. But then USC guard Jordan McLaughlin missed a layup, and senior forward GG Goloman grabbed the rebound and Welsh scored the rest of UCLA’s points.

The Trojans pulled down 14 offensive rebounds and held a 16-2 advantage in points off turnovers, but the Bruins mustered enough firepower to overcome that disadvantage.

“We had three straight games of taking care of the basketball and getting high-percentage shots,” Alford said. “It doesn’t mean we made all the shots, but tonight was a game we shot over 50 percent (and) we only had 12 turnovers.”

UCLA finished shooting 50.9 percent from the floor and 46.2 from beyond the arc. Junior guard Aaron Holiday made five of his seven 3-point attempts, as he led the Bruins with 23 points on 7-of-10 overall shooting.

Defensively, UCLA tried to take away USC’s main weapons and force lesser-used players such as guard Shaqquan Aaron score the ball, Alford said.

Trojan forward Chimezie Metu only scored 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting, in part to the Bruins’ diligence defending his screens.

“One thing they really emphasize is the middle pick and roll, especially throwing lobs up to him,” Welsh said. “Just this whole week we’ve been focusing on trying to take that opportunity away just by being better in pick and roll defense.”

Holiday also provided stout defense against USC guard Jordan McLaughlin, who was held to 5 points – more than 7 below his season average.

It was an all-around, 40-minute effort for Holiday.

“I don’t feel like I shut him down, I just tried my hardest just to stay in front of him,” Holiday said. “I just wanted him to work for everything. … I think I did a pretty good job.”

Free throw shooting proved crucial yet again in crunch time for the Bruins.

With just under five minutes remaining, redshirt sophomore Alex Olesinski and Trojan forward Nick Rakocevic got tangled up while fighting for a rebound under the USC basket. The referees called a flagrant foul on Olesinski and a technical on Rakocevic, but the Trojan missed both of the free throws while Holiday made both of UCLA’s to tie the game at 69.

Goloman then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 30 seconds left, but Welsh’s heroics sealed the game.

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Senior staff

Wang is a Daily Bruin senior staffer on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's tennis, women's tennis and women's soccer beats. Wang was previously a reporter for the men's tennis beat.

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  • assimilation

    Get rid of the 3-points shot

    As I predicted it when it was implemented, that rule has turned the game into a ridiculous 3 points shooting contest where you live or die by it!

    ….where the wide open ones are expected to be made like layups …and they are… by a growing number of players taking them… where the percentage of misses are about the same as the ones taken from mid range or even short range distance..

    ..where the contested ones are easier to make (much more with the step back) than trying to score inside and/or under the rim where many shots get blocked with the big men presence , and when you score here you only get 2 points . It does not make sense.!

    With the added bonus point, players have progressively been better at it, by practicing it and practicing it . ….Even the big men have joined the circus .

    Why would it be otherwise when you can easily get 3 points instead of two. If it was not true, they would not constantly try to find and/or set the open guy beyond the arc. And its going to get worse!

    You can push the line back as far as it can, then here again the game will turn into another long distance shot contest which is anyway the case now with players taking them way beyond the 21 foot line to show their range to NBA scouts

    If you like that rule, then why bother playing 40 minutes, as well make it a pure 3 or more pointers contest, by adding a point for each shot made further and further.

    Its amazing to me that the basketball pundits do not see this or question it

    Basketball at its best is a game of ball movements setting up the last pass to the best positioned wide open shot player which ultimately is the one ending up right under the basket for a layup like after a back door cut pass etc…and not that ridiculous 3 points contest, almost impossible to block short of fouling.

    At best I would keep the 3 or more points shot only during the last 2 minutes of the game! But that would creates specialists like the kickers in Football which would enter the game just to take those last minutes shots.

    • mike oxhard

      Uh, yeah. You have to score more points than the other team to win the game. 3 is more than 2, so players opt to go for those shots. Seems pretty simple to me, why are you so incensed about this? Plus, Golden State, Houston, even San Antonio take a lot of 3 point shots BECAUSE they can move the ball around so well.

      • assimilation

        So make it a pure 3 points or more contest like during the NBA all stars contest.,which I do not watch much less The NBA circus games and I am watching less and less the college game because of it..

        • assimilation

          or better if the goal is to score a lot of points give it 10 points instead of 3.

          • mike oxhard

            I just don’t see how the rise of the 3 point shot makes the game any less skilled. I could just as easily say there is no strategy in always trying to score inside- you just have to run a lineup full of 7 footers who bully their way into the paint.

          • assimilation

            To lessen the big men advantage in the paint all you need to is to draw up both lane diagonally from from both tips end of the foul line so that the paint is wider along the baseline to constantly force those big men outside that paint to not get penalize with the 3 seconds rule.

    • Paul

      Don’t think the 3 should be abolished…but the line it far too close. Make it NBA range.

      • assimilation

        Why should a 21 foot shot or 25 worth 3 points while a 20.5 or 24.5 foot ones worth only 2?
        It is no longer a difficult shot to make but trying to score inside is where many gets blocked. The only 3 points that make sense is when you score while being fouled at the same time.

        • Paul

          Think that ship has sailed…