LOS ANGELES – Jonah Mathews closes the regular season with a record-breaking performance in the USC Trojans’ 54-52 victory over the UCLA Bruin’s Saturday afternoon at the Galen Center, ending their cross-town rival’s seven-game winning streak.
Mathews entered the game needing to make four threes to break Elijah Stewart’s Trojan record of 245 three pointers. Mathews made a season-high five three pointers to set a new Trojan record at 247. But none was more important than the game-winning three he made with one second left on the clock.
UCLA’s Cody Riley, who scored a Bruin-leading 13 points, made two free throws to give Bruins a 52-51 lead with 9 seconds left. The Trojans called a timeout in between to try to ice Riley, to no avail but to also set up the final play.
“We set a high ball screen, “ said USC head coach Andy Enfield. “Jonah can take on the big and go to work. It was his call to drive or step back. You put the ball in your best playmaker’s hands.”
The ending was a moment of redemption for Mathews. With 1:41 on the clock and Trojans leading 51-48, Mathews missed a pair of free throws that could have given his team more cushion and pressure on the Bruins in the final minutes.
“Coach told me before the free throw even happened, he was putting the ball in my hands and we’re going to live or die,” Mathews said. “So I was like ‘We’re going to live today!’ We’re going to live and celebrate.”
The moment was particularly special considering it was against the Trojans’ rivals.
“That was a dagger in their heart,” said Mathews.“It’ll stick with them forever like this will stick with me forever… I actually dreamed it last night. I said, ‘What if I end it like that, what if I break the record?’”
Onyeka Okongwu, who scored 16 points for the Trojans grabbed a huge offensive rebound with two Bruins draped all over his back. He then passed to Mathews at the top of the three-point arc who then made a three to put USC up 43-38. It was Mathews’ fourth of the game and the record breaking 246th of his career.
It was a close game for all 40 minutes, with the largest lead either team held at five points. And another of the grind-it-out variety for the Trojans, who once again kept an opponent to under 40 percent shooting; they improve to 16-3 when doing so.
With the win, the Trojans finish tied for third place in the Pac-12 Conference and secures a bye for the first round of the conference tournament, to be played later this week in Las Vegas, Nevada.