Press-Telegram (Long Beach)
USC’s last-second basket wins game and finishes regular season sweep of UCLA.
Eaddy hits last-second shot as USC stuns UCLA, keeps Pac-12 title hopes alive
LOS ANGELES » Perhaps there is a reason that Tahj Eaddy wore Jonah Mathews’ No. 2 for USC this season.
Like Mathews a year ago, Eaddy provided the stunning, last-second blow to UCLA in the regular season finale by draining a corner 3-pointer with one second to play, giving the Trojans their only lead of the game.
It was the only lead they needed as UCLA’s half-court shot was off and the Trojans escaped Pauley Pavilion with a 64-63 win and a season sweep of the Bruins.
“It’s special to be able to do it in a USC uniform,” said Eaddy, who was friends with Mathews before transferring from Santa Clara prior to this season. “We both wear the same number, against UCLA, so it’s just funny how things come full circle like that.”
The victory keeps USC’s dreams of a regular-season Pac-12 title alive. At 21-6 overall and 15-5 in the Pac-12, the Trojans clinched at least the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament next week.
But if Oregon loses to Oregon State today, the Trojans would win their first outright regular-season conference crown in 60 years.
“We had a few tough games last week on the road but we bounced back,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “Whether we come in first or second in the league, it doesn’t diminish what our players have accomplished.”
Evan Mobley led USC with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Chevez Goodwin provided 12 points off the bench while not much else was working for the Trojans offense.
Jaime Jaquez scored 12 for UCLA. Jules Bernard and David Singleton scored 11 apiece. The Bruins were playing without leading scorer Johnny Juzang, who injured his ankle Friday at practice.
After Bernard missed the front half of a one-andone with 11 seconds to play, Eaddy charged up the court and slipped under the USC basket. He could have been called for traveling, but instead a held ball was called, with the possession arrow going the Trojans’ way.
USC had 3 seconds to get a shot up, with Ethan Anderson handling the in-bounds pass on the baseline. The original play call, Eaddy said, was to lob it to Evan Mobley under the basket. But the Bruins covered it, and Eaddy worked to get open.
“That wasn’t a designed play,” Eaddy said, despite Enfield jokingly dubbing it “Hail Trojan.”
“It felt really good. When I faked high and came down to the corner, Ethan hit me right on time.”
As the Trojans mobbed Eaddy on the court, the Bruins walked off to the locker room having seen yet another game escape their grasp in the final minutes.
UCLA (17-8, 13-6) missed two front ends of one-andones in the final two minutes to leave a possible four points off the board and give the Trojans an opportunity.
At the start, the USC offense did not have the same swagger it displayed in Wednesday’s win over Stanford. The Trojans turned the ball over three times in the first five minutes and missed nine straight shots as the Bruins built a 13-point lead.
It felt like a comfortable lead for most of the game. Each time the Trojans cut it to a single possession, the Bruins answered with a couple buckets and a couple stops to keep USC at arm’s length.
But in the final minutes, the Bruins couldn’t get the stops or scores it needed. The Bruins made only one basket in the final 5:01 of the game, recalling memories of Wednesday’s collapse against Oregon.
Bernard and Cody Riley combined for 15 second-half points, but required 15 shots to do so. Meanwhile Singleton, who drained two firsthalf 3-pointers, managed just two points on three attempts after halftime.
“Second half, we had three or four offensive trips that were just awful, God awful, that resulted in layups at the other end,” UCLA head coach Mick Cronin said. “That’s why the free throws mattered. That’s why the game was close at the end. And those are the things that you can control.”
The loss drops UCLA to the No. 4 seed in the Pac12 Tournament. The Bruins, who have lost three in a row, will open in the quarterfinals against fifthseeded Oregon State on Thursday.
While the Bruins search for momentum, the Trojans hope they found some ahead of next week’s trip to Las Vegas.