UCLA (19-2, 6-2) at USC (17-4, 4-4)
When: Wednesday, January 25th 2017
Where: Galen Center, Los Angeles, CA
Time: 11:00 ET | TV: FOX Sports 1
The high-scoring UCLA Bruins travel across town to take on rival Southern California on Wednesday night at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. The Bruins rank second in the country in points (93.0) and first in field goal percentage (53.1), but the lack of defense hurt them last Saturday in a 96-85 home loss to ninth-ranked Arizona. It was the fourth straight game the Bruins have allowed 80 points or more, and they are allowing 76.5 points a game on the season – good for 276th. Arizona repeatedly isolated UCLA senior guard Bryce Alford at the top of the key and then beat him off the dribble, usually resulting in an easy layup by the ball handler or a high-percentage pass to an open teammate. As a result, the Wildcats shot 50% from the field and hit almost half their three-point attempts (9-for-20). Lonzo Ball got another chance to show a national audience why he’ll be a first round NBA Draft selection, finishing with a season-high 24 points, six rebounds and eight assists against Arizona. The downside to his performance was the two points he scored over the final 12.5 minutes and that was just a meaningless layup with 19 seconds left. UCLA’s other heralded freshman, 6-10 forward T.J. Leaf, was even more invisible the second half, scoring just two points over the final 17:58, and now has finished below his 16.7 average in four of the last five games.
The Trojans have a player that can give Alford similar problems in point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who leads the team in scoring (14.1) and assists (5.1). McLaughlin is coming off an 18-point eight assist performance in a 82-79 win over Arizona State on Sunday. USC will be looking for their first two-game winning streak since they started the season 13-0. Elijah Stewart is in a brutal shooting slump since the start of Pac-12 play. Stewart seems to have broken out of that slump recently with 49 points in the last two games on 18-for-32 shooting, including 12-for-22 from 3-point range. This will be Stewart’s seventh game against UCLA over the last three seasons and he hasn’t topped 16 points in any of those games. The Trojans are not very deep as they primarily go with two players off the bench – Nick Rakocevic and Shaqquan Aaron. USC swept all three games against the Bruins last season and will go on the road after this game to play the two Washington schools.
This is a rivalry game and the Trojans are a good enough team to hang tough with the Bruins. Look for Stewart to stay hot for USC and help keep this game close.
Pick: USC +6.5