UCLA’s defense was one key to their victory over USC, as Jordan Adams (above) and his teammates held USC to just 35.3 percent shooting. Photo by William “Jaye” Johnson
UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammed may be the top pick in this coming NBA Draft, so UCLA needs to get their act together before they lose him. Photo by William “Jaye” Johnson
With leadership from senior point guard Larry Drew II (Taft High School), UCLA’s freshman laden team may have a chance in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournaments. Photo by William “Jaye” Johnson
USC upset UCLA in their first meeting. UCLA not only wanted to get even, they needed to prove that they are a legitimate contender.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
UCLA entered this season with a star studded recruiting class, and there was a lot of talk about them competing for a national title. Well, things have not gone exactly as planned, and that was clear when USC, who has one of the worst overall records in the PAC-12, knocked off UCLA in overtime earlier in the conference season.
UCLA has been extremely inconsistent this year. They have shown that they can compete with the better teams in the nation, as they defeated Arizona, who was No. 5 in the nation at the time, in Arizona. But in their next game they were blown out by Arizona St., who is not bad at all, but they certainly are not world beaters.
The USC loss showed that this UCLA team may have been nearly as overhyped as USC’s football team this past season. So UCLA needed to make a statement against their cross town rival in the rematch.
In the second game UCLA played like they were expected too all season, as they routed USC with ease. After getting off to a fast start, UCLA kept their foot on the gas as they built their lead up to 25 points.
The win was somewhat satisfying for UCLA players and their fans, but this win does not mean that this team can live up to preseason expectations. They are now a half of a game out of first place in the PAC-12, trailing No. 11 Arizona and No. 24 Oregon. They have a chance to win the PAC-12 regular season title, but this weekend will be very telling for where this team really is right now.
UCLA will host Arizona St. tonight (Thursday), and Arizona on Saturday. Two wins will put UCLA in a great position heading into the PAC-12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. They finish the season against Washington State and Washington, who are both in the bottom half of the conference.
UCLA could be rewarded with a high seed in the NCAA Tournament if they take care of business. But if this inconsistent play continues, this could end up being a disappointing season, and they will probably watch their top players move on to the NBA. If that happens, it might be time to get a new head coach, as Ben Howland has not fielded a contender over the past few years.