January 19, 2019 by Jas Kang
LOS ANGELES — After struggling through the first half of the schedule, this is exactly what the USC Trojans needed to potentially turn their season around.
Bennie Boatwright and Nick Rakocevic each dropped 21 points, leading the Trojans to a 80-67 win over the UCLA Bruins in the battle of L.A.
“Coaches did a good job of letting us know where the open spots on the floor are going to be,” Boatwright said. “We were able to make some shots and pull away.”
USC (10-8 overall, 3-2 in Pac-12 play) ended its two game skid, largely as a result of its improved play on the offensive end over the final 20 minutes.
Leading 36-33 at the break, the Trojans fed off the energy of the home crowd and came out of the locker room blazing.
After starting off 5-16 from the beyond the arc, USC went 7-13 over the final 20 minutes, allowing the Trojans to start to pull away.
Boatwright hit three shots from deep in the opening seven minutes of the second half, while Rakocevic and senior Shaqquan Aaron chipped in as well, helping extend USC’s lead to 19.
Trojans head coach Andy Enfield, loved how his guys responded after the back-to-back losses in Oregon.
“It was a nice win for us. Very proud of our players effort,” he said. “We had 26 assists and forced 20 turnovers, so that definitely helped.”
Aaron led the way with 7 dimes, while guard Jonah Mathews had 5.
Another key for the Trojans was controlling the paint, where they outscored UCLA 42-30. Rakocevic dominated inside, finishing with 12 rebounds, include 8 on the offensive end.
“He (Rakocevic) is one of the leaders on our team,” Enfield said. “When you look at guys who go onto to play at the next level, rebounding is critical.”
USC came out of the gate strong, forcing the Bruins into some early turnovers to take a 14-4 lead less than five minutes in.
UCLA head coach Murray Bartow saw the game slipping away and called for his team to go into a 2-3 zone. It was the right decision.
The Trojans went cold from the outside, allowing the Bruins to get back into the game, making it close at the half.
USC never tailed by more than single point.
The Trojans are off until Thursday, when they host the Arizona Wildcats.