Boogie Ellis and USC make their NCAA tournament case in furious comeback over UCLA

Ryan Kartje, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

LOS ANGELES — There wouldn’t be many more shots like this. For USC, a team just rounding into form, opportunities to state its case to the NCAA tournament selection committee were so sparse from here it couldn’t afford to squander any left. Least of all against its bitter rival, UCLA, one of the few Pac-12 teams capable of catching the committee’s attention.

It was with those stakes on his shoulders that Boogie Ellis stepped back from the top of the key Thursday night and let a final-minute three-pointer fly. Just a few weeks ago, when the two crosstown rivals last met, it was Ellis who unraveled down the stretch, committing an inexplicable offensive foul that turned the tide late.

This time, the Trojans point guard would be his own one-man tidal wave, sweeping away UCLA with a second-half effort that might rank among the most memorable in the recent history of the rivalry. This time, with Ellis in search of redemption and USC in search of a statement, the furious comeback would not fall short in a 77-64 victory over UCLA.

“We needed a big statement win,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.

USC got just that on Thursday, handing UCLA its second consecutive defeat and its fifth straight loss at Galen Center. The Trojans sit just a game behind the Bruins in the Pac-12 race, a possibility that seemed unlikely a few short weeks ago.

UCLA remains in the driver’s seat in that regard, having won 14 straight before its current losing streak. But the Bruins’ lackluster effort in the second half left plenty of questions in their wake. Namely why their offense has abandoned them in back-to-back second halves against USC.


“We’re no juggernaut,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “I didn’t harbor any illusions about going undefeated in the Pac-12.”

For David Singleton, there a simple answer as to why UCLA once again fell apart after halftime.

“In my opinion, I think they wanted it more than us,” said Singleton, who scored 14 points. “I think they played harder, they wanted it more, they got their job done.”

By the time Ellis fired off that final three on Thursday, USC was already well into unleashing a second-half barrage on UCLA, burying the Bruins with deep shots and suffocating them on ball screens.


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