LOS ANGELES, CA-UCLA guard Aaron Holiday went off. The USC Trojans’ defense went to sleep in the second half of its Pac-12 Conference finale against its crosstown rival to allow the Bruins to come away with an 83-72 win at the Galen Center Saturday night.
For much of the game, USC seemed to be in control of the contest, keeping the relentless Holiday and the Bruins at bay with timely shooting and aggressive paint action. But UCLA had a counter to everything that USC was trying to do: Holiday. Whether it was dropping three-point bombs, slashing his way to the basket or penetrating for an assist, Holiday was the one trump card the Trojans had no answer for.
Averaging 19.6 points a game for the season, Holiday went for a career-high 34 points against USC to ruin the Trojans’ senior night celebration.
The defeat was more than a bitter pill for USC to swallow. While they maintained their second-place position in the final Pac-12 Conference standings, the Trojans saw its four-game winning streak come to an end and departed their home arena surrendering a second game to the Bruins.
Even with former football standout and now Tennessee Titans star Adoree Jackson sitting in the stands, there was nothing USC could do to handle UCLA’s shutterbug in the explosive Holiday. The Trojans went on spurts several times during the game and looked as if they wanted to pull away from a team that had defeated them earlier in the season.
Each time that happened, Holiday stepped in and did this thing to not allow UCLA to fall too far back of the Trojans. USC had a double-digit lead in the first 20 minutes of the game (30-20), only to see that man Holiday and the Bruins come roaring back like it takes for someone to their snap their finger.
Besides the electric play of Holiday, what did in USC was the same offensive strategy that worked for UCLA in beating the Trojans the first time: the 3-point shot. In their first contest, an 82-79 victory for the Bruins, UCLA shot nearly 50 percent (46 percent) from the field. That formula worked again for the Bruins, who connected on 13 of their 27 shots (48 percent) from long distance.
On the flip side of that coin, the Trojans struggled in that category, making only five of their 19 3-point shot attempts (26 percent). For the game, UCLA outshot USC from the floor, making half of their shots to just 40 percent of the field goal attempts the Trojans made. Elijah Stewart, one of USC’s seniors heralded before the game, struggled from the field.
Stewart didn’t have the type of game he wanted, going 1-of-6 on three-point shooting and finishing the game with just 12 points. That kind of production was in contrast to the 20 points that Stewart scored against UCLA the first time the two teams met. USC didn’t falter due to lack of effort.
Guard Jordan McLaughlin made up for his five-point showing against the Bruins in that first game to lead the Trojans in scoring with 19 points. Big man Chimezie Metu also gave the Trojans a lift with his contributions of 16 points and 10 rebounds on the evening. But Holiday, who played the entire 40 minutes against the Trojans, was the star of this show.
UCLA’s floor general made 11-of-16 shots from the field and made six of his eight free throws to conclude his point total on the night. During his scoring barrage, Holiday made six of his nine 3-point attempts, handed out seven assists and grabbed five rebounds along the way.