Patience pushes UCLA past USC

By Sandeep Chandok:

A 76-74 final score indicates a close game but believe me, it wasn’t that close.

UCLA played calm, cool and collected all night as it got open looks at the basket, didn’t panic when USC rallied and shared the ball amongst one another.

The 76 points was 15 short of the Bruin’s nation-leading season average and it came as a result of their 41 percent shooting from the field.

“We haven’t had too many tough shooting nights,” said UCLA head coach Steve Alford to ESPN postgame. “Tonight was one of those [nights].”

Although the Bruins led throughout the entire 40 minutes in last night’s quarterfinal, the game did get interesting every now and then.

USC’s historic “Fight on” mantra panned out as the Trojans fought back from a 14-point first half deficit to pull within three at the break, 38-35.

But don’t be fooled — it wasn’t that close.

Fouls and free throws went heavily in the Trojan’s favor as they had attempted 18 freebies by the 11:08 mark in the second frame compared to just three for the Bruins.

If USC couldn’t make free throws, the game would’ve been lopsided due to a suffocating UCLA defense that had the Trojans scrambling to get shots up at times.

“We were able to get enough stops and hold them to [39] percent shooting,” Alford said.

As for the Bruins, Isaac Hamilton strolled his way to a 22-point showing on 8-15 shooting including four triples. An efficient effort for a player no USC defender could contain.

Hamilton’s backcourt mate Lonzo Ball picked up a quick second foul on a soft blocking call with 15:49 remaining in the first half, forcing the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year sit early on.

Nonetheless, Ball understood his team’s win was an all-around performance.

“Credit to the coaching staff and [my] teammates,” Ball said. “You can’t win this game with one person.”

Ball posted 12 points and seven assists in the Bruins’ win last night and for those who don’t know — that is a typical stat line for the freshman sensation.

The Chino Hills native is a projected top-five pick in the NBA draft and should be because he seemed kind of bored against USC.

Often times, Ball would dribble up the court, pass the ball off to a teammate and nonchalantly hang on the wing while his team operated.

This tells us that Ball is not being challenged at the collegiate level and is more than ready for the NBA.

And for anyone who thinks his 14.8 ppg average is subpar, don’t forget Ball leads the country with 7.8 apg and grabs 6.2 rpg as well.

We’ll see how Ball and company handles Arizona tonight in the Pac-12 semis.

Or rather, we’ll see how Arizona attempts to handle Ball and the Bruins.

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