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    UCLA men’s basketball vs. USC: What you need to know
    • February 23, 2024

    LOS ANGELES — The UCLA men’s basketball team is going for a sweep against crosstown rival USC on Saturday, following a 15-point win at Galen Center on Jan. 27.

    That victory began a six-game winning streak for the Bruins that unceremoniously ended against Utah on a buzzer-beating tip-in Sunday.

    UCLA has had the entire week to prepare for the Trojans, which has provided them with a coveted opportunity for a reset and not spend a portion of every practice watching film.

    “This time of year, it’s good to only have one game in one week so you can get some rest,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “The guys are constantly getting hit with game plans … we spend two or three days of an unbelievable amount of preparation, put into scouting our opponents and game plans. I’m not saying (just) us, I’m talking college basketball … the mental grind of that with players is something I try and stay in tune with.”

    Sophomore guard Dylan Andrews finished with a game-high 20 points in the 65-50 victory over USC last month.

    “My main thing is turning defense into offense,” Andrews said. “Letting defense be the thing that leads into your offense, not just focusing on offense, because sometimes the ball is not going to go into the basket and you need to figure out what else you can do to affect the game.”

    Sophomore forward Adem Bona added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and two blocked shots against the Trojans. Bona’s ability to affect the game with timely shot blocking could also spur the team’s fast-break offense.

    “Blocking and having possession of the ball just opens the fast break for you because the whole team is on attack while there is no one back on defense,” Bona said. “I think it helps a lot for me to be able to make plays like that. That’s big-time plays, stopping them from getting a point, getting us a point on the other end. I think that’s big-time plays and I need to make more of those.”


    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Pauley Pavilion

    TV/Radio: ESPN / 570 AM

    Records: UCLA 14-12, 9-6 Pac-12; USC 10-16, 4-11

    UCLA’s latest result: The Bruins are coming off a disappointing 70-69 loss at home Utah on Sunday. Sebastian Mack was ejected in the first half for a flagrant 2 foul after appearing to strike Utah’s Branden Carlson in the face with his arm, but the freshman guard is expected to play against USC, Cronin said.

    “It’s over. He made a mistake. He’s a young kid, you move on,” Cronin said. “You can’t put your arm up because once you put your arm up it, then it gets to a point of flagrant.”

    Junior guard Lazar Stefanovic finished with a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds, but UCLA gave up the winning tip-in with 0.2 seconds left after not securing a rebound.

    USC’s latest result: The Trojans are coming off a 92-89 loss at home to Colorado on Feb. 17. Guards Boogie Ellis (30) and Isaiah Collier (25) combined for 55 points in the double-overtime loss. However, USC blew a 16-point lead in the second half. Freshman guard Bronny James finished with just two points and two assists in 14 minutes and did not play in overtime.

    Matchups to watch: Andrews and Sebastian Mack, who are averaging a combined 24.5 points per game, against USC’s backcourt of Ellis and Collier, who are averaging a combined 32.9 points per game.

    Andrews held Ellis to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting on Jan. 27. Collier, a highly touted freshman, did not play but has since recovered from a hand injury and is averaging 19.5 points per game since returning Feb. 7.

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    UCLA trends to watch: UCLA has won eight of its past 10 games, improving to 14-12 overall, after falling to 6-10 with a 90-44 loss at Utah on Jan. 11.

    “I think we were on a start-over this year,” Cronin said. “Early on, the guys didn’t understand our culture of, ‘It’s just not OK to lose, regardless of your situation.’”

    In the last 10 games, Stefanovic is shooting 40.9% from 3-point range and 90.9% from the free-throw line. During that span, the 6-foot-7 junior guard has averaged a team-high 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

    UCLA is 12-3 when it hold its opponents to 65 or fewer points.


    ​ Orange County Register