Already lacking front court depth, UCLA being without the services of forward Travis Wear for their game at cross-city rival USC seemed to give the Trojans a shot at sweeping the season series for the second time in the last four seasons.
However the Bruins (20-7, 10-4) left little doubt on Sunday afternoon, beating the Trojans 75-59 at the Galen Center to keep pace in the loss column with Oregon and No. 12 Arizona (both 11-4) atop the Pac-12 standings.
All five starters reached double figures with Jordan Adams’ 20 points leading the way, and the Bruins assisted on 18 of their 25 field goals. Ben Howland’s team took quality shots for most of the afternoon, something that was an issue in their 75-71 overtime loss to the Trojans on January 30 at Pauley Pavilion.
In regards to UCLA’s prospects down the line a key development was the play of David Wear. Wear, who has struggled for much of the season, produced his first double-double since the season opener with ten points and 11 rebounds. With Travis out of the lineup UCLA needed David to raise his level of play and he did just that.
USC did out-rebound UCLA 42-37, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds and scoring 21 second-chance points, but thanks to the play of Wear and Kyle Anderson (11 points, nine rebounds) up front the Bruins weren’t in a great deal of trouble at any point. Tony Parker even gave UCLA some quality minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds in 17 minutes of action.
Are there areas in which UCLA needs to improve if they’re to have a productive March? Certainly, especially when considering the USC’s work on the offensive glass and the fact that the Bruins entered the game dead last in the Pac-12 in defensive rebounding percentage (67.2%).
But David Wear being more productive (and confident) needs to happen if the Bruins are to win the program’s first Pac-12 regular season title since 2008.
If David can build on Sunday’s outing, the Bruins will end up gaining something of value from Travis Wear’s absence.