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Feb 23, 2024 10:23 pm

Milestone meeting for USC, UCLA in season of struggles

boogie ellis

Saturday marks the end of an era for crosstown Los Angeles rivals when Southern California visits UCLA in the teams’ last meeting as members of the Pac-12 Conference.

The concluding season in the conference has been a struggle for both teams.

USC (10-16, 4-11 (Pac-12) dropped eight of nine conference games from Jan. 10 through Feb. 10, and only emerged from last place in the Pac-12 standings last week when it split a home series with Utah and Colorado.

The Trojans nearly scored their first weekend sweep of the campaign, opening the set with a 68-64 win over Utah on Feb. 15, but they gave up a second-half lead of as many as 16 points in a 92-89 loss to Colorado in double-overtime on Feb. 17.

“As frustrating as this loss was, as much as we wanted it, we gotta move on,” USC guard Kobe Johnson said. “We got to come back together as a team because going into UCLA is not an easy place to play.”

The Bruins (14-12, 9-6) are just 8-5 at Pauley Pavilion this season, at one point losing four straight home games amid a stretch in which they dropped 8 of 9 overall. UCLA recovered to win 8 of 9, including four straight at home, breathing life into its season.

That stretch included a 65-50 win at USC on Jan. 27. Dylan Andrews scored 20 points and Adem Bona added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

UCLA heads into the rematch coming off a home loss, however, 70-69 to Utah.

Andrews scored the last of his 15 points on a go-ahead jumper with six seconds remaining — extending his streak to seven consecutive games of scoring in double figures. The run began with 20 vs. USC. The Bruins, however, gave up a buzzer-beating tip-in to the Utes’ Branden Carlson on the other end.

UCLA will try to replicate its defensive effort on USC’s Boogie Ellis from the first meeting. Andrews primarily drew the assignment and limited Ellis, who averages 16.7 points per game, to eight points.

However, the Trojans played that game without guard Isaiah Collier (16.2 ppg) due to a broken hand. Andrews said at Thursday’s media availability he could match up with either Collier or Ellis.

“SC’s a different team with (Collier) on the floor,” Andrews said. “He’s a pretty good point guard. But we’re working hard in practice, and we’re working (at) scouting so we’re going to see this weekend.”

–Field Level Media

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