Los Angeles, CA – The USC basketball team came into the matchup with crosstown rival UCLA on a four-game losing streak against the Bruins.
USC junior forward Nick Rakocevic scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help USC to a dominating 80-67 win over UCLA Saturday at the Galen Center.
Bennie Boatwright added 21 points and made a season-high five three-pointers. USC won its fifth consecutive home game and improved to 3-0 in home conference games this season.
“It was important to get off to a good start,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “They came back, we knew they’d make a run. With 19 minutes to go, I thought our defense picked us up and we made shots.”
After UCLA’s Moses Brown tied it at 38, Boatwright drained back-to-back three’s to spark the Trojans 28-7 run in the second half. The Trojans led by as many as 26.
UCLA went scoreless over four minutes while USC went on a 14-0 run to take a 60-42 with 11:07 remaining in the game. The Trojans played suffocating defense in the second half, holding UCLA’s shooting to 37.8 percent.
“Last year, they came and beat us here,” Jonah Mathews said. “We couldn’t let that happen this year. It was personal for all of us.”
USC opened the game hitting 5-of-7 from the field and took 12-4 lead. The Bruins mounted a 10-2 run but still trailed, 18-14, with 11:04 left in the first half.
The Trojans scored seven straight points to end the first half with a 36-33 lead. USC had a season-high 26 assists and made 12 three-point baskets.
“We gave great effort,” Enfield said. “We challenged shots. We did a decent job on the boards. We rotated quickly. We got in front of them and made it hard for them to get to the basket.
USC’s next game will be against Arizona at the Galen Center on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m.