No. 8 UCLA strolled into Galen Center and scored the first eight points of Wednesday's rivalry game against USC, and the Bruins seemed like they would enjoy a comfortable win over a lower ranked team.
That narrative, though, didn't last long. This was a rivalry game, and the crowd played its part.
USC coach Andy Enfield singled out the crowd after the game: "This is a big time college atmosphere. This is as good as I've ever seen it."
Thanks largely to sloppy play by the Bruins and strong outside shooting from the Trojans, USC went on to outscore UCLA 50-30 for the remainder of the half. The home team hit nine of its 19 long range attempts, while the Bruins only attempted five three-pointers in the first half.
In particular, Shaqquan Aaron off the USC bench caught fire from beyond the arc. The 21-year-old sophomore converted four of his nine three-point attempts in the game and finished with 23 points, which were good enough for game high honors.
Added to the Trojans' hot shooting, UCLA's star guard Lonzo Ball had a rough night that included five first half turnovers. As a team, UCLA played sloppy basketball and gave the ball away 13 times in the first 20 minutes compared to only three turnovers for the Trojans in the first half.
With USC leading 50-38 at the intermission, the second half featured Ball getting a bit more aggressive and looking to force the issue. That aggression led to the 19-year-old Anaheim native increasing his total to seven turnovers in a hurry, but the likely lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft seemed to help the Bruins find some rhythm by the 30-minute mark.
The Trojans had also cooled off from distance relative to the first half at that stage, and USC had only hit two of their nine second-half three-point attempts entering the final 10 minutes of the contest.
With the Trojans missing shots and Ball forcing the action, the Bruins cut the lead to only four points. Suddenly, the spattering of blue shirts in the crowd began to make their voices heard.
However, the Trojans quickly regained their shooting prowess from distance and hit a couple three-pointers to rebuild a seven-point lead at the seven-minute mark. Added to that, USC responded with a couple highlight dunks and negated a Ball three-pointer with yet another Trojan three-pointer. The Trojans finished the game with 14 threes made on 34 long range attempts.
With four minutes to play, USC sat on a nine-point lead and UCLA was suddenly squarely staring at its third loss of the season. The Bruins would proceed to launch a flurry of three-pointers that refused to drop.
Eventually, the clock ran out and USC beat UCLA 84-76.
The Trojans improved to 18-4 with the victory. The Bruins dropped to 19-3. The two teams meet again in Westwood in February.
Notes: Ball finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and seven turnovers in the loss.