USC Keeps Tournament Hopes Alive By Beating UCLA

In college hoops, it's extremely difficult to beat an opponent three times in one season. Just ask the Pac-10 Tournament's top-seeded Washington Huskies, who fell to Arizona State in Friday's semi-final warmup act. The same held true for USC, as they played an inspired game and used a strong defensive effort to upset UCLA by a score of 65-55.

The Bruins were a virtual lock to get into the NCAA Tournament when the selections are announced on Sunday, regardless of what happened in their conference tournament. The Trojans, however, were not in the same situation. USC entered the Pac-10 Tournament with 18 wins, and most experts had them on the outside looking in unless they did some serious damage this weekend.

So far, that's exactly what they've done.

USC came out more inspired and played with more of a sense of urgency than their opponents on Friday, and it showed in their defense. The Trojans were able to hold UCLA to just 27.1% shooting, which was a phenomenal feat considering the fact that the Bruins led the nation in that category at 50.3 percent on the season.

Freshman DeMar DeRozan led USC with 21 points and 13 rebounds, and the team's top two scorers on the season, Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis, combined for 27. UCLA's senior guard Darren Collison had a rough go of it, and finished with only four points on 1-of-9 shooting. He did dish out three assists, but also committed seven turnovers.

The Trojans will face Arizona State in the tournament's championship game on Saturday at 3PM. The two teams split their two regular season meetings, with each club winning on their home floor.

The Sun Devils will make the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome of Saturday's championship game, but the same cannot be said for USC. While the Trojans did manage to get to the magical 20-win plateau in the last 48 hours, if they want to ensure themselves a chance at playing next weekend, they'll play with the same desperation that they have over these last two games and get the automatic bid by beating ASU on Saturday. Because if they leave it up to the selection committee, they just might find themselves on the outside looking in.

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