LOS ANGELES — Move over, UCLA. Your crosstown rival has joined you atop the Pac-12 standings.
Ethan Anderson had career highs of five 3-pointers and 19 points, and Southern California routed the 21st-ranked Bruins 66-48 on Saturday night to tie them for first place at 9-2 in the league.
“This is a very big night for me just because I haven’t seen my shots fall the way I wanted them to,” said Anderson, who returned three weeks ago after back issues forced him out in early December. “I’m glad my teammates trusted me with the ball. We did a good job of being unselfish tonight.”
Tahj Eaddy added 16 points for the Trojans (15-3), who have won four in a row and 10 of 11 since the program was shut down due to COVID-19 issues in December.
The Mobley brothers helped USC control the boards, 40-33. Freshman big man Evan Mobley, the league’s leading rebounder, had nine rebounds and older brother Isaiah grabbed 11.
Johnny Juzang led the short-handed Bruins (13-4) with 13 points and 13 rebounds. He was their only double-digit scorer on a team that features four starters averaging double figures.
“You’re not winning games scoring 48 points,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “We didn’t come close to making enough (shots) to give ourselves a chance against a good team. They’re a team that, in my mind, easily could have one loss.”
UCLA’s frontline took a hit before the game when big men Cody Riley (right ankle) and Jalen Hill (personal reasons) were declared out. Riley got hurt in practice Friday. Between them, they average 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Anderson took over during a dominant stretch in the second half. He scored eight straight points, hitting two 3s. Max Agbonkpolo missed the second of two free throws and Chevez Goodwin snagged the offensive board, passing to Anderson for his fifth 3-pointer of the game.
“Ethan played tremendous basketball on both ends,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Tonight was a great game to get his confidence where it needs to be for us to compete in the next eight games.”
Anderson’s acrobatic shot under the basket and three straight free throws by Agbonkpolo extended USC’s lead to 19 points – its largest of the game.
“All credit to him. He hit some really big shots for them,” Bruins guard Tyger Campbell said of Anderson. “Our scouting report was something different. He’s a good player.”
The Bruins were limited to 34% shooting, missing open looks at times only to watch one Mobley brother or the other rip down a rebound. The Mobleys were disruptors inside, too, altering shots against the smaller Bruins. Evan finished with four blocks.
UCLA surprised its rival by playing zone defense for the first time this season.
“We dusted off our zone plays and everyone had to remember what we were trying to do,” Enfield said.
The Trojans took control with runs of 10-0 and 9-0 in the first half to lead 30-20 at the break. The Bruins’ points were their fewest in the first half this season. UCLA closed within one only to get outscored 13-4 to end the half. Noah Baumann and Eaddy combined to hit three consecutive 3-pointers for the Trojans.
The crosstown rivalry was muted by no fans allowed for the nationally televised game, just cardboard cutouts at Galen Center.
It was another bitter defeat at USC for the Bruins. They dropped both meetings last season, including a 54-52 heartbreaker on a 3-pointer by Jonah Mathews that ended UCLA’s seven-game winning streak. That game on March 7 proved to be the last for both teams, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing an early end to the season.
“We defended and kept our effort up despite abysmal shooting,” Cronin said. “The guys gave everything they had.”
UCLA: Four of the Bruins’ seven scheduled games remaining are against teams with losing records.
USC: The Trojans have been resilient through the pandemic and are poised to crack the Top 25 for the first time this season.
Mac Etienne, a 6-foot-9 freshman from New York City, made his college debut for the Bruins. He had eight points, five rebounds, two blocks and one steal in 27 minutes. He also had four turnovers. He enrolled at UCLA in December after graduating high school early.
“He was on a mission to get himself on the floor. He wasn’t waiting until next November,” Cronin said. “You can see he has a tremendous amount of potential.”
UCLA: Visits Washington State on Thursday, a team the Bruins beat by 30 points last month.
USC: Plays at Washington on Thursday. The Trojans won by 27 points in the first meeting.