This post was updated Jan. 19 at 4:14 p.m.
Once again, the zone defense was impenetrable.
Not UCLA’s, against which USC made 16-of-30 field goal attempts in the second half and shot 46.9 percent overall.
The Bruins (10-8, 3-2 Pac-12) struggled again to generate open looks against a 2-3 zone defense, shooting under 40 percent from the field during the majority of their 80-67 loss to the Trojans (10-8, 3-2) on Saturday.
“In the first half, we got a lot of open looks, trusted one another as a team,” said sophomore guard Kris Wilkes. “Mentally, in the second half, it just wasn’t the same. In order to win games and beat them the next time we play them, we have to play a whole 40 minutes, trusting each other and scoring the ball.”
Even against no defense, UCLA’s shots clanked iron much more often than it glided through nylon and twine.
Coming into Saturday, the Bruins only shot 62 percent on free throws, but they only made four of 12 shots from the charity stripe against the Trojans.
Freshman center Moses Brown missed all six of his free throws and his first four shots from the floor, scoring a career-low two points. Sophomore guard Chris Smith missed all five of his shots from the field.
UCLA also turned the ball over 20 times, the third time in the last four games that it surpassed at least 20.
Sophomore guard Jaylen Hands led the Bruins with six turnovers.
“We’re still turning the ball over too much,” said interim coach Murry Bartow. “When you go on the road, you’ve got to play letter-perfect and we didn’t.”
Through five conference games, UCLA has recorded more assists than turnovers just once. On Saturday, it managed only 13 assists compared to USC’s 26.
“We were really moving it in the first half but in the second half, we just got real stagnant,” said redshirt junior guard Prince Ali. “That’s something that we’re going to have to figure out soon because we’re going to play a lot more teams who are just as talented or more talented (than USC).”
The Bruins briefly switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense in the first half, but it remained in the locker room following halftime as Bartow stuck with the 2-3 zone for the rest of the game.
After Ali tied the game at 36 with a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the second half, the Trojans went on a 27-6 run over the next nine minutes.
The defensive scheme wasn’t the problem.
“We probably would have gotten a few more stops (playing 1-3-1) but it wasn’t defense that was messing us up,” Wilkes said. “If we played with the same offense, I don’t think (a different defense) would have helped us out that much.”
Ali made three of his seven 3-point attempts, but his teammates combined to go 2-of-15. Ali and Hands both led the Bruins with 15 points each, and Wilkes added 13.
USC guard Jonah Mathews and forwards Bennie Boatwright and Nick Rakocevic combined for 58 points on 22-of-42 shooting.
The Trojans outshot the Bruins 41.4 percent to 22.7 percent on 3-pointers.