USC thwarts UC Riverside’s upset bid in OT

Having lost several scheduled games to COVID-19 restrictions, USC booked a replacement game against UC Riverside for Tuesday night at the Galen Center, a mid-week game sandwiched between Pac-12 opponents.

The Trojans got a little more than they likely expected from the Highlanders and needed a big overtime period from Drew Peterson to complement nice efforts from brothers Evan and Isaiah Mobley and close out a 67-62 victory.

UCR used a 16-0 run in the first half to open a five-point lead at halftime and the Big West Conference visitors had a chance to win the game in regulation before 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley blocked Zyan Pullin’s shot at the buzzer. It was one of six blocks for Mobley, who boasts a 7-5 wingspan.

Evan Mobley’s dunk with 4:05 left in the extra session gave the Trojans (9-2) the lead for good but they never created much distance from the Highlanders (4-3). USC had a one-point lead when Peterson scored three-point plays on back-to-back possessions, a jumper and a free throw followed by an inside basket and free throw that extended the margin to 61-56 with 2:35 left.

Dominick Pickett came back with a 3-pointer for UCR 19 seconds later, but Evan Mobley sank a pair of free throws, Peterson hit a jumper and the Trojans had enough room to hold on.

Evan Mobley scored 20 points (on 8-for-12 shooting) and had 11 rebounds to go with his defensive contributions, and Isaiah Mobley finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Trojans. Peterson had 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Tahj Eaddy added 10 points, four rebounds and two steals.

UCR had five players score in double digits: Pickett (16), Cameron Flynn (12) and Jock Perry, Pullin and Arinze Chidom 10 each.

“UC Riverside played well defensively, and we had a slow start that gave them some confidence,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “It was a good win considering we were 3 for 21 from the 3-point line.

“We’ve had trouble there recently. I think we’re 6 for 43 the last few games, and a lot of those shots were wide open. We weren’t forcing anything; we just didn’t make many.”

In overtime, the Trojans used their height advantage to post up the 6-8 Peterson for good looks.

“We’re happy to get a win,” Peterson said. “There are no free wins these days. Every win you get is gritty.”

Especially when the schedule is in a constant state of flux. That has been a concern for most Division I teams. The Trojans booked the game between conference games, which was a challenge considering the unexpected depth of the Pac-12 this season. Tuseday’s game was the first of six scheduled during a 12-day period.

“UC Riverside was a tough and local team and it was a cram session for us to be ready,” Enfield said.

“They kind of dared us to take outside shots, and were forcing us to the left side, which we didn’t expect,” Isaiah Mobley said. “We just had to start executing the way we know how. I really think this is a championship team, and winning games like this shows what we can do.”

USC led 14-9 when UCR went on its 16-0 run, Flynn hitting three 3-pointers and Wil Tattersall capping the run with one of his own with 7:56 left before halftime.

UCR led 32-27 at halftime. USC’s 52-47 lead in the second half with 3:10 left was the largest lead for either team prior to overtime.

UCR outscored USC 36-9 from beyond the arc but was just 2 for 9 from the free-throw line compared to the Trojans’ 16-for-22 mark. Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field. USC outrebounded UCR, 47-37.

WHO TO BELIEVE?

USC entered the game 5-0 all-time against UC Riverside, winning the last meeting, 70-26, on Dec. 15, 2012. USC was forced to vacate its 2008 victory against the Highlanders due to NCAA penalties. But that’s according to the Trojans’ media guide.

The Highlanders’ media guide gives UC Riverside credit for wins against USC on Feb. 3, 1967 and Nov. 30, 1979 and puts the rivalry at 6-2 in favor of the Trojans.

New services contributed to this story.

UP NEXT

UC Riverside faces Cal Poly on the road for back-to-back Big West games on Friday and Saturday.

USC resumes Pac-12 play when it welcomes Washington to town on Thursday.

The Trojans came back from 11 points down to get the W.

Catch all the highlights from tonight’s game! ⤵pic.twitter.com/2usKYfZVLI

— USC Men’s Basketball (@USC_Hoops) January 13, 2021

Powered by WPeMatico

Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, in just a half, wasn’t half bad

By TIM REYNOLDS

The Associated Press

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — DeVonta Smith did not catch a single pass after halftime. He didn’t have to, either.

He’d done plenty.

The Heisman Trophy-winning receiver from Alabama put his stamp all over the College Football Playoff championship game in the first two quarters, and the Crimson Tide are national champions once again. Smith had 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns – all those scores coming in the second quarter – to lead the Tide past Ohio State, 52-24, on Monday night.

“Last year, they said the dynasty was over,” Smith said. “We don’t stop. We just keep reloading.”

He won everything there was to win this season: the national title, the Heisman, and became the first FBS player since Michael Crabtree in 2007 to lead the nation in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

And after winning Offensive Player-of-the-Game honors on Monday, next stop, the NFL.

“Unbelievable,” Smith said in the on-field interview, as garnet confetti littered the field. “We just finished writing our story. That was the whole thing of us coming back, just finishing the story that we wanted to write. And we did that.”

Smith left in the third quarter, a towel draped over his right hand, covering what was later revealed to be a dislocated finger. Smith stopped on his way into the Alabama locker room to gaze at a television mounted high over the left side of the entrance, checking out one of the countless Crimson Tide highlights of the evening.

He was responsible for plenty of them.

“Smitty, obviously, had a great half,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Smith had five catches that went for more than 15 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown that pushed Alabama’s lead to 35-17 just before halftime. He doesn’t so much run as glides; consider, on one of his touchdowns Monday night, he evaded a defender, the end zone pylon, three photographers and a crane holding a camera – all on the same play, and made it all look easy, just like the Tide did pretty much all night.

“We couldn’t quite keep up,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.

After getting hurt, Smith returned to the sideline with his hand heavily bandaged, wearing sweats and a mask with the Heisman logo. His night and college career were over, even though he tried to talk his way back onto the field. But he wasn’t going to miss the celebration and knew his teammates would finish the job.

“I just believed in them from the jump,” Smith said. “That’s what we do. That’s why you come to ’Bama.’

Alabama fans who were at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, ooh-ed and aah-ed every time he touched the ball, just as they did two years ago when he came to that same stadium and put on a show in the Orange Bowl to help the Tide past Oklahoma and into the CFP title game that season. They lost that matchup to Clemson, denying the Tide back-to-back national titles.

Smith has that second ring now, to go with the one he helped secure as a freshman when he caught the game- and title-winning pass from Tua Tagovailoa in overtime as Alabama topped Georgia for the 2017 season’s national championship.

And now, one of the questions until the NFL draft will be whether he and Tagovailoa reunite. The Dolphins – Tagovailoa’s team – have the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, and if Smith is still on the board it’s hard to imagine him not getting taken there by a team that won 10 games this season yet still missed the playoffs and is in need of a play-making wideout.

When they talk about how Alabama navigated an SEC-only schedule during the COVID-19 season without a loss and won another national championship, some names will likely come to mind with ease.

Smith, of course, will be there. So will Saban, unquestionably the most successful coach of his time. As will Najee Harris, who set the Crimson Tide single-season touchdown record with 30 scores.

And it would be a shame if they forgot quarterback Mac Jones, who bided his time behind Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts before finally getting the keys to the Alabama offense in 2020 – only to lead the nation in passing yards and passing efficiency, finish second in touchdown passes and cap it all off with a 464-yard, five-touchdown, record-setting performance in the title game.

“To me, this is the ultimate team,” Saban said.

In Saban’s mind, Smith was that team’s ultimate competitor.

For all Harris did, for all Jones did, it was a skinny kid from Louisiana who was the best player in the country, the best player on the field in the season’s ultimate game – putting up all his numbers in just one half of work.

“Heavens knows what he would have done if he played the whole game,” Saban said.

Read more about Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, in just a half, wasn’t half bad This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Cal State Fullerton can’t match UCSB’s balance in Big West opener

SANTA BARBARA — Junior guard Trey Maddox Jr. had a career-high 27 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough for Cal State Fullerton as UC Santa Barbara used a balanced attack and pulled away in the second half to defeat the Titans, 81-63, in a Big West Conference game on Friday night at the Thunderdome.

The Gauchos led by seven at halftime, then took control in the second half when Miles Norris punctuated a 13-2 run with a fast-break dunk that pushed the margin to 51-35 with 10:29 left. The Titans never got closer than 11 the rest of the way and the margin was extended to 21 in the final five minutes.

Maddox scored Fullerton’s first 10 points and finished 11 for 16 from the field, including a 5-for-8 mark from 3-point range, in 35 minutes. Sophomore Vincent Lee added 10 points on 5-for-9 shooting and grabbed four rebounds for the Titans (1-1 overall, 0-1 Big West), who were playing their first game since Dec. 13 because of a 14-day quarantine for COVID-19 test results. Senior Josh Hall had eight points and 10 rebounds.

Ajare Sanni led UCSB (5-3, 1-2) with 19 points (13 in the second half), four rebounds and five assists. He was 8 for 11 from the field, including 3 for 3 from 3-point range. JaQuori McLaughlin had 13 points and six assists, and Norris had 13 points and three blocked shots. Amadou Sow had 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting despite being limited to 17 minutes because of foul trouble. Robinson Idehen added seven points and nine rebounds.

Fullerton had 17 turnovers and just 10 assists. UCSB shot 53.1% overall, including 20 for 31 (64.5%) in the second half. The Gauchos, who dropped their first two Big West games at UC Irvine on Sunday and Monday, were an efficient 5 for 9 from 3-point range after halftime. UCSB had a season-high nine steals and just 12 turnovers to go with 22 assists.

The Titans and Gauchos play the second game of their two-game series on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Thunderdome. The game can be streamed on ESPN3.

Powered by WPeMatico

Rose Bowl scouting report: Alabama vs. Notre Dame

No. 1 seed ALABAMA (11-0) vs. No. 4 NOTRE DAME (10-1)

When: Friday, 1 p.m. PST (ESPN)

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Line: Alabama by 19½

Series record: Notre Dame leads, 5-2

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Alabama is trying to get in the College Football Playoff championship game for the fifth time in six seasons. Notre Dame is making its second CFP appearance, two years after a 30-3 loss to Clemson at AT&T Stadium. The Crimson Tide and Irish last played eight seasons ago, when Alabama won, 42-14, in the BCS national title game on Jan. 7, 2013, in suburban Miami, where this year’s CFP title game is scheduled for Jan. 11.

KEY MATCHUP

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book vs. the Alabama defense: The fifth-year senior, a two-time captain, is the school’s winningest starting quarterback (30-4) and had 266 consecutive attempts between his two interceptions this season. He completed 64% percent of his passes for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 430 yards and eight scores. The Crimson Tide did allow 46 points to Florida while Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask threw for 408 yards in the SEC title game, but their previous six opponents combined for only 53 points. Alabama has 32 sacks and has returned three of its 11 interceptions for touchdowns.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alabama: Junior quarterback Mac Jones and senior wide receiver DeVonta Smith, both Heisman Trophy finalists. Jones has thrown for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns with four interceptions while completing 76.5% (250 of 327) of his passes. Smith is the SEC career leader with 40 touchdown catches, with a school-record 17 this season when he has 98 receptions for 1,511 yards.

Notre Dame: Senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The AP All-American also won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker with 56 tackles (38 solos), 11 for losses. He had one interception and recovered two fumbles, one of which he returned for a touchdown in a double-overtime victory over Clemson.

FACTS & FIGURES

Relocated from its traditional home in Pasadena because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Rose Bowl will be the second New Year’s Six game played at AT&T Stadium in less than 48 hours. The Cotton Bowl was Wednesday night, and the turnover of the stadium started almost immediately after Oklahoma’s 55-20 victory over Florida. … Notre Dame is 4-3 when facing a top-ranked team in a bowl game. … Alabama is 4-0 at AT&T Stadium, including a 38-0 rout of Michigan State in a semifinal game at the Cotton Bowl five seasons ago.

ANALYSIS

Let’s be clear: The difference is in the dudes. The Tide simply have more elite players and dynamic athletes than the Irish. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly believes the talent gap has shrunk since the Irish lost to Alabama in the 2013 BCS championship game, and he is right. But is it enough to dramatically change the outcome eight years later?

A way to bridge the chasm could start with Notre Dame’s tight ends. Freshman Michael Mayer is likely a future first-round draft pick and Tommy Tremble is a versatile athlete who lines up at several positions. The Irish will also use three tight ends at times.

It’s not so much that the tight ends can dominate the game with their pass-catching and playmaking. SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic says Notre Dame can use them in varying formations and motions to make it difficult for Alabama to identify who is doing what.

“The way you’re going to have success against (the Tide) is basically to not sit still and to get them to line up incorrectly,” said Cubelic, who played offensive line at Auburn.

The Irish offensive line is excellent and should hold up just fine against Alabama’s defensive front, which could give Notre Dame the opportunity to run the ball, milk some clock, let Book make plays with his legs and limit total possessions. That’s important, because on the other side of the ball, nobody is slamming the brakes on Jones, Smith, running back Najee Harris and a Tide offense that averages almost 8 yards per play.

The Irish need to find a few stops to have a chance. Cubelic and ESPN analyst Greg McElroy disagree on the best way to go about getting them.

Cubelic said Notre Dame should take Arkansas’ approach, drop seven or eight into coverage, focus on taking away the deep throws and force the Tide to be patient. Of course, the Razorbacks lost, 52-3, but Jones averaged only 8.7 yards per pass. On the season, he was up over 11.

McElroy said Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea should throw every pressure he has at Alabama.

“I think the best way for them to neutralize the throw game is to overload pressure and force the ball out of Mac Jones’ hand earlier than he would like it to be forced out,” said McElroy, a former Alabama quarterback.

The Tide might be more susceptible to protection problems in their first full game without center Landon Dickerson, who was lost in the Florida game to a knee injury.

“That’s a massive, massive loss,” Cubelic said.

Read more about Rose Bowl scouting report: Alabama vs. Notre Dame This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Santa Ana Shredding Service

Powered by WPeMatico

Alabama, Notre Dame ready for relocated Rose Bowl clash

ARLINGTON, Texas — Playing a Rose Bowl game deep in the heart of Texas is anything but normal. Top-ranked Alabama being in a College Football Playoff semifinal game is nothing new.

The SEC champion Crimson Tide (11-0) are in a familiar position despite the chaos of playing during the pandemic. No. 4 Notre Dame, which finished runner-up in the ACC after temporarily giving up its cherished independent status, gets another playoff chance two years after a big thud in the same stadium.

“We’re going to keep knocking at the door. We don’t listen to the narratives about what Notre Dame can and can’t do,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said on Thursday. “We’re just excited that we’re going to keep banging at this door and we’re going to get through.”

These Irish (10-1) go into the relocated Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day as three-touchdown underdogs against Alabama and the Tide’s Heisman Trophy finalists, quarterback Mac Jones and receiver DeVonta Smith. The game was moved to AT&T Stadium from its traditional home in Pasadena because of COVID-19 restrictions in California that would have kept family – and any other fans – from attending.

When the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium was a semifinal two years ago, Notre Dame lost, 30-3, to eventual national champion Clemson in its only previous CFP appearance. The No. 2 Tigers (10-1), who avenged their only loss by beating the Irish, 34-10, in the ACC title game, play Ohio State (6-0) in this season’s other semifinal Friday night at the Sugar Bowl.

The semifinal winners are scheduled to play Jan. 11 in suburban Miami, where eight seasons ago in the BCS national championship game Alabama trounced Notre Dame, 42-14, in the last meeting between the storied programs.

“Even after going undefeated that year, we lost in the national championship game, and we were looked at as not a very good football team,” Kelly said. “We needed to look at the things that could help us grow. And we’ve been doing that each and every year.”

Notre Dame is still trying to catch up with Alabama, which is in a CFP semifinal for the sixth time after missing the final four for the only time last year. The Tide are 4-0 at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, including a 38-0 rout of Michigan State five seasons ago on the way to a national championship. They won another title, their fifth overall under Coach Nick Saban, three seasons ago.

“It means a lot to come back here, reach our destination, to keep on building the standard here,” All-American cornerback Patrick Surtain II said.

“We just want to take advantage of where we’re at,” said Jones, the junior who has thrown for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns with four interceptions in his first full season as the starter. “We’re finally where we want to be.”

MISSING IN THE MIDDLE

Alabama will be without All-America center Landon Dickerson, a team captain who is recovering from surgery after injuring his knee late in the SEC title game victory over Florida.

“He’s been a great leader on our team and will certainly be missed,” Saban said.

Chris Owens, a senior from Arlington, Texas, will be the starting center against the Irish.

SKILL SETS

Alabama’s offense has Heisman finalists Jones and Smith, plus a big-scoring, dual-threat tailback in Najee Harris, who has rushed for 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns, and caught 32 passes for 316 yards and three more scores. Harris finished fifth in the Heisman voting, but did not receive enough votes to be deemed a finalist.

Smith has 98 catches for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns. Jones has completed 76.5% of his passes for 3,739 yards with 32 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Ian Book, a fifth-year senior and two-time captain, is Notre Dame’s winningest starting quarterback at 30-4. He has thrown for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 430 yards and eight scores rushing. Sophomore running back Kyren Williams has 1,061 yards rushing with 12 TDs, and Javon McKinley, who starred at Corona’s Centennial High, has four 100-yard receiving games.

BIG-GAME PLAYER

McKinley, who has been plagued by injuries in college, was a dominant high school player, hauling in 153 passes for 3,232 yards and 35 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Centennial. As a junior, he hauled in 97 passes for 2,059 yards and 22 touchdowns.

With Centennial, McKinley was often at his best in the biggest moments. In five playoff games during his junior season, McKinley had 50 catches for 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns, including games against national powers Concord De La Salle (six catches, 153 yards, two TDs), St. John Bosco (13 catches, 151 yards, one TD) and Mater Dei (six catches, 187 yards, one TD).

That same season, McKinley also had six catches for 104 yards and a score in a regular-season game against Mater Dei and caught seven passes for 103 yards and a score against powerhouse Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas.

QUICK TURNAROUND

The Rose Bowl will be the second New Year’s Six game played at AT&T Stadium in less than 48 hours. Oklahoma beat Florida 55-20 in the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday night, and the turnover of the stadium began almost immediately afterward. That game had a limited capacity crowd of 17,323, and the Rose Bowl attendance should be similar.

SHORT TRIP

Like they would during the regular season, the Crimson Tide traveled from campus on Thursday, the day before the game.

“Just going today as if this is a normal road trip for us, but certainly not a normal game for us,” Saban said.

FRIENDLY FOES

Alabama running back Harris and Notre Dame quarterback Book, who grew up 90 miles from each other in Northern California, once were 7-on-7 teammates for TMP of Sacramento.

“The plan was if we were ever down, you just throw it up and Najee would go catch it. He was playing receiver for us. And he did that. That’s how we were able to win some games,” Book said.

“He does an amazing job getting the ball to his playmakers,” Harris said.

Powered by WPeMatico

College Football Playoff defenses face big challenges

My how times have changed in college football since the last time Alabama and Notre Dame met.

The Crimson Tide rode the nation’s best defense into that January 2013 national championship matchup, yielding a paltry 184 yards and eight points per game.

Fast-forward to the new reality: Offense wins championships. Or at least it’s carried the top-ranked Tide, No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State into contention heading into Friday’s College Football Playoff semifinal games.

Alabama might have the nation’s best offense under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, the former USC head coach.

“This is not pro I, let’s run it up inside and play great defense,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, whose Fighting Irish (10-1) will face the Crimson Tide (11-0) in Arlington, Texas. “They’re still playing fundamentally sound defense, but with the offenses as they are today, you know, it’s very difficult not to give up some yards.

“So you’re seeing fundamentally sound defense. You’re still seeing the same principles. You’re seeing at times elite play in certain position groups at Alabama. And then an offense now that can rival the very best college offenses in the country.”

Only the Tigers, who play the Buckeyes in New Orleans, have an elite defense statistically among the playoff teams. The other three have been plenty good enough to support those high-scoring offenses.

But ’Bama doesn’t rank higher than 12th nationally in the four major defensive statistical categories. Notre Dame isn’t better than 14th and Ohio State has been stingy against the run and more generous to opposing passers.

Then there’s Clemson, which ranks sixth in total defense, giving up 298.5 yards per game.

The AP All-America teams had eight representatives from the playoffs on the first-team offense and three on defense: Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade.

The playoff teams have three of the four Heisman Trophy finalists.

ALABAMA

The Skinny: The Tide have veteran standouts like Surtain and linebackers Dylan Moses and Christian Harris and rising star freshmen like pass rusher Will Anderson and defensive back Malachi Moore. Have been stingy at times but gave up yards and points galore to Mississippi and Florida. The Tide have 21 sacks over the last four games and 32 total.

Best Game: Alabama became the first to shut out a Mike Leach team, beating Mississippi State, 41-0, and allowing just 163 total yards while forcing three turnovers.

Worst Game: Alabama allowed a whopping 647 total yards in a 63-48 victory over Lane Kiffin’s Mississippi team. It was the most yards a Tide defense had ever surrendered and the most points by an unranked team against ’Bama. “It humbled us a lot,” Surtain said.

Best Player: Surtain is a shutdown cornerback who was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and is a Jim Thorpe Award finalist. He has 32 tackles, an interception and 10 pass breakups.

CLEMSON

The Skinny: The Tigers are not as star heavy and don’t have an Isaiah Simmons-type to lead the way this season. That balanced approach has Clemson giving up fewer points this year than last season’s group. The soft spot might be in pass coverage, where Clemson is giving up 198 yards per game, about 30 more than last year.

Best player: Linebacker James Skalski is a fierce hitter and the glue that holds the group together. When he missed games against Boston College and Notre Dame with an injury, Clemson allowed 75 points and lost to the Irish. With Skalski back the past three games, the Tigers have given up just 37 total, including only 10 to Notre Dame in the ACC Championship rematch.

Worst game: At Notre Dame, where the Tigers gave up 518 yards – unheard of against a Brent Venables-led defense – and permitted the Irish a long touchdown drive at the end to tie a game they’d eventually win in double overtime.

Best game: The rematch with the Fighting Irish for the ACC crown. Clemson held Notre Dame to a field goal on two early trips to the red zone, then pounded the Irish the rest of the way. The Tigers gave up just 263 yards to win their sixth consecutive league crown.

NOTRE DAME

The Skinny: Under third-year defensive coordinator Clark Lea, set to become head coach at alma mater Vanderbilt, the Irish entered their final regular-season game against Syracuse with a top 10 defense. But they’ve given up 955 yards combined the past two games and have a tendency to allow big passing plays.

Best player: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. A first-team Associated Press All-American and Butkus Award winner, the 6-foot-1, 216-pound senior has 56 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, an interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Clemson.

Worst game: The 34-10 loss to Clemson in the ACC championship game. The Irish struggled to defend quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne.

Best game: The 31-17 victory at North Carolina on Nov. 27. Notre Dame held the prolific Tar Heels, whose offense was averaging 563.4 yards per game coming in, to just 78 total yards and zero points in the second half.

OHIO STATE

The Skinny: COVID-19 issues and a six-game schedule might have impeded the Buckeyes’ progress. But the defense did recover 10 fumbles, collect six interceptions and rack up 17 sacks in that limited schedule.


Best Game: Ohio State turned in a strong defensive performance in a 22-10 victory over Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes allowed just 329 yards and intercepted two passes.

Worst Game: Ohio State nearly blew a three-touchdown lead before holding on for a 42-35 win against Indiana, albeit with help from a defensive touchdown late in the third quarter. Michael Penix Jr. torched the Buckeyes for 491 passing yards and five touchdowns.

Best player: All-America cornerback Shaun Wade had 21 tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups. His 36-yard interception return for a touchdown against Indiana proved huge.

Powered by WPeMatico

Sugar Bowl scouting report: Clemson vs. Ohio State

No. 2 seed CLEMSON (10-1) vs. No. 3 OHIO STATE (6-0)

When: Friday, 5 p.m. PST

Where: Superdome, New Orleans

Line: Clemson by 7

Series record: Clemson leads, 4-0

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

A berth in the College Football Playoff national championship game in Miami on Jan. 11. Clemson is seeking its fifth appearance in the title game since the four-team CFP playoff debuted in the 2014 season. Ohio State is eyeing its first title game appearance since January 2015 when the Buckeyes beat Oregon to win their last national title.

KEY MATCHUP

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, an adept scrambler who is averaging about 254 yards and better than two touchdowns passing per game, against a Clemson defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally in yards allowed per game (298.5), has had multiple sacks in every game and has three defensive touchdowns on fumble returns.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ohio State: Fields has completed 72.6% of his passes for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs against five interceptions in six games. He also has 274 yards and five touchdowns rushing; running back Trey Sermon has averaged 112 yards rushing, and is coming off a school record-breaking 331 against Northwestern; wide receiver Garrett Wilson has 38 catches for 621 yards and five TDs; wide receiver Chris Olave has 36 catches for 528 yards and five TDs; All-America cornerback Shaun Wade has two INTs.

Clemson: Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is widely expected to be selected first overall in the 2021 NFL draft after passing for 2,753 yards and 22 touchdowns against just four interceptions in nine games – all victories. Lawrence has completed 69.2% of his passes and also has rushed for 211 yards and seven touchdowns; running back Travis Etienne leads Clemson in rushing with 882 yards and 13 touchdowns to go with 44 catches for 524 yards and two touchdowns; wide receiver Amari Rodgers has 69 catches for 966 yards and seven touchdowns. Linebacker Baylon Spector has 9½ tackles for loss and 3½ sacks.

FACTS & FIGURES

Clemson is making its sixth consecutive playoff appearance. The Tigers won CFP titles in the 2016 and 2018 seasons and lost the championship game in the 2015 and 2019 seasons. … Ohio State is making its second straight playoff appearance and fourth overall. … Clemson beat Ohio State, 29-23, in a Fiesta Bowl CFP semifinal last season. Clemson also beat Ohio State, 31-0, in a 2016 Fiesta Bowl semifinal. … All of Clemson’s victories over Ohio State have come in bowl games, including the Orange Bowl at the end of the 2013 season and the 1978 Peach Bowl. … Clemson lost, 42-25, to LSU in last year’s CFP championship game at the Superdome in New Orleans. … Clemson is making its third Sugar Bowl appearance and is seeking its first Sugar Bowl win. … Ohio State is making its sixth Sugar Bowl appearance and has won its last three, including a 42-35 triumph over Alabama in the first CFP semifinal on Jan. 1, 2015.

Read more about Sugar Bowl scouting report: Clemson vs. Ohio State This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Alexander: Against a better team, USC runs out of comebacks

This was not Arizona State, or Arizona, or UCLA that USC was playing on Friday night. This was a battle-tested program that USC faced in the Pac-12 championship game, an Oregon team that certainly heard all that talk about not belonging here and resolved to shove it in their critics’ faces.

So this was not another of those miracle comebacks that Clay Helton’s team kept pulling off in 2020, because this was too good an opponent to fall behind by two touchdowns and hope to rally – especially with a Ducks’ defensive front that kept Kedon Slovis under duress all night and by the end had sent him to the X-ray room to have his shoulder examined.

Oregon is a hurdle that much of the Pac-12, not just USC, finds difficult to surmount in December. The Ducks have played in four of the conference’s 10 championship games and won all four, with Friday night’s 31-24 victory in the Coliseum their second in a row. And they seem to be a team that has handled the uncertainty and adversity of Pandemic Football well.

They won’t rank among Oregon’s best teams, not after back-to-back losses to Oregon State and Cal as well as barely escaping at home against a UCLA club that was better than anticipated. But they were the best team the Trojans had faced this season, by far, and have now beaten USC in four of their past five meetings.

This wasn’t nearly of the same magnitude as Oregon’s 56-24 wipeout last November at the Coliseum (which, among other things, helped convince Chargers general manager Tom Telesco that quarterback Justin Herbert was the real deal.) But there remains a good degree of separation between the Oregon and USC programs, even beyond the fact that Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal just received a six-year contract extension. A vocal segment of USC fans, of course, would prefer a buyout of Helton’s contract, which runs through 2023.

USC was fun to watch during this truncated season, no doubt. The Trojans (5-1) showed grit, determination, and a willingness to believe right down to the end every week. It was impressive that Slovis had the ball in his hands on Friday with a chance to pull off yet another miracle on the final play after USC had fallen behind 14-0 less than eight minutes into the game and trailed 31-17 with 10 minutes left.

Especially since he spent all night trying to escape Oregon’s pass rush. The Ducks (4-2) sacked him three times, and two of them were from players who got away – Kayvon Thibodeaux, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore from Oaks Christian, had one sack and two other tackles for loss, and sophomore linebacker Andrew Faoliu from Mater Dei also got him once. Beyond that, Slovis spent most of the night throwing on the run and was intercepted three times.

“That’s a talented front and we know what Kayvon can do, and I thought he got tremendous jump off the ball,” Helton said. “They flushed Kedon out of the pocket, got him off his spot a bunch. I did think Kedon did a nice job of keeping his eyes up and downfield and creating a lot after being flushed. But credit to them.”

But really, as entertaining as they were all season, the Trojans were far from great. The cavalcade of errors and self-inflicted wounds that helped beat them Friday night –  turnovers, penalties, poor blocking and too many missed tackles – are just as much a part of the résumé as that grit and determination. Wasting a great defensive play with an unnecessary personal foul, as Isaiah Pola-Mao did early in the third quarter, or the roughing-the-punter penalty by Talanoa Hufanga that kept an eventual Oregon scoring drive alive … these are the sorts of undisciplined things that Helton’s critics point to when they complain that the Trojans aren’t coached well enough.

As we’ve said before, this season amounted to a free pass for Helton from a job security standpoint. Had this been a full season, with fans filling the Coliseum and no worries about COVID-19 tests or canceled games or anything beyond the usual demands of the USC fan base, he might be on the clock as we speak.

Not even those inspiring comebacks quieted the critics. You can still find them on social media regularly, and they make occasional appearances in the columnist’s inbox.

The coach knows the drill, certainly.

“You know, we’re judged on championships here,” he said. “That’s the beauty of this place. That’s the expectation. That’s the standard. That’s what we fight for. That’s why our hearts are broken in that locker room, because that’s the only thing we will accept as a team, is a championship.

“And the fact of the matter is, we’re really close, but obviously we didn’t get it done tonight and that’s the next step.”

Like it or not, Trojans fans, this season earned Helton another year, and another chance.

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

Read more about Alexander: Against a better team, USC runs out of comebacks This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

UC Irvine’s comeback bid falls short at LMU

LOS ANGELES — Collin Welp had 11 points and a career-high 19 rebounds but missed his attempt at a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds and UC Irvine lost to Loyola Marymount, 51-48, on Thursday night at LMU’s Gersten Pavilion.

Dameane Douglas had 18 points to lead LMU, which had to hold off the Anteaters down the stretch.

Douglas made a pair of free throws to stretch the Lions’ lead to 50-41 with 2:11 to play, but UCI’s Jeron Artest made a 3-pointer and Justin Hohn converted a layup to pull UCI to within 50-48 with 38 seconds left. LMU’s Eli Scott made one of two free-throw attempts with 10 seconds left to make it a 3-point game and set the scene for Welp to try to force overtime.

Scott had 11 points for LMU (4-3). Mattias Markusson had seven points, and Ivan Alipiev had seven rebounds.

Dawson Baker had 12 points on 6-for-13 shooting for UCI  (2-4), and Brad Greene had eight points, four rebounds and three blocked shots.

Neither team shot the ball well. UCI made just 35.6 percent (21 for 59) overall, including a 3-for-13 showing (23 percent) from 3-point range, while LMU was at 35.8 percent (19 for 53) overall and just 2 for 18 (11 percent) from beyond the arc.

LMU held a 40-37 advantage in rebounds and outscored UCI 30-22 in the paint and got to the free-throw line more frequently, going 11 for 19 there while UCI was just 3 for 6. UCI’s 48 points was its worst offensive output since a 2011 game against UC Davis.

A jump shot from Baker followed by a layup from Welp gave UCI a 29-22 lead early in the second half, but LMU used a 13-2 run to take a 35-31 lead with 11:15 left. The Lions stretched the margin to seven points with 4:57 left, before a Hohn 3-pointer got UCI within 45-41 with 4:41 left. LMU went ahead by nine on Douglas’ free throws with 2:11 left, before the Anteaters’ late surge.

“This game represented progress for us in the big picture and that is something we could focus on and take away from that,” said UCI coach Russell Turner, who remains frustrated with his team when it comes to giving up extra possessions off missed free throws and transition defense.

“I am angry with my team and our ability to get free-throw rebounds. I am angry with our lack of commitment to do that because I believe if we did that we could have won this game tonight. I am disappointed in our lack of running back on defense and getting back to defend. That is something that I want to drive home with our team and I need commitment from every guy to do that.”

UP NEXT

UCI hosts San Diego on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Powered by WPeMatico

UCLA holds off Marquette with poise down the stretch

  • UCLA guard Johnny Juzang fouls Marquette guard Koby McEwen during the second half of Friday night’s game at Pauley Pavilion. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA forward Jalen Hill, right, defends against Marquette guard Koby McEwen during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Marquette forward Theo John, right, looks for a pass around UCLA forward Jalen Hill during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA forward Jalen Hill (24) dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Marquette, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Head coach Mike Cronin of the UCLA Bruins reacts to a play during the first half against the Marquette Golden Eagles at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • Marquette forward Justin Lewis, center, goes up for a shot against UCLA guard Chris Smith, left, and UCLA guard David Singleton (34) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA guard Chris Smith, left, is defended by Marquette forward Justin Lewis during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • of an NCAA college basketball game Marquette forward Jamal Cain, left, dunks against UCLA forward Jalen Hill during the first half Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. , right, shoots while defended by Marquette forward Theo John, front left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Marquette guard Greg Elliott (5) shoots against UCLA guard Jules Bernard (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA guard Chris Smith (5) is defended by Marquette forward Theo John (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA coach Mick Cronin looks to the sideline during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Marquette on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Marquette forward Dawson Garcia, right, shoots against UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jalen Hill #24 of the UCLA Bruins and Theo John #4 of the Marquette Golden Eagles fight for the rebound during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • UCLA forward Jalen Hill, right, defends against Marquette guard Koby McEwen during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Marquette forward Justin Lewis, center, goes up for a shot against UCLA guard Chris Smith, left, and UCLA guard David Singleton (34) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA guard Jules Bernard, left, is defended by Marquette forward Jamal Cain during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA guard Tyger Campbell celebrates a win over Marquette after an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (4) shoots next to Marquette forward Dawson Garcia (33) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Theo John #4 of the Marquette Golden Eagles blocks a shot by Johnny Juzang #3 of the UCLA Bruins during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski stands near the sideline during the second half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against UCLA on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA guard Jules Bernard shoots over Marquette guard D.J. Carton (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • UCLA guard Tyger Campbell, right, is defended by Marquette guard Koby McEwen during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jamal Cain #23 of the Marquette Golden Eagles dunks the ball over Jalen Hill #24 of the UCLA Bruins during the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jaylen Clark #0 of the UCLA Bruins and Koby McEwen #25 of the Marquette Golden Eagles fight for the ball during the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins steals the ball from Theo John #4 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jalen Hill #24 of the UCLA Bruins dunks the ball over D.J. Carton #21 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Koby McEwen #25 of the Marquette Golden Eagles reacts to a play during the first half against the UCLA Bruins at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins brings the ball up court against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jaylen Clark #0 of the UCLA Bruins and Dawson Garcia #33 of the Marquette Golden Eagles fight for the ball during the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: D.J. Carton #21 of the Marquette Golden Eagles shoots a three point basket defended by Cody Riley #2 of the UCLA Bruins during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket during the first half against the Marquette Golden Eagles at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Justin Lewis #2 of the Marquette Golden Eagles and Jalen Hill #24 of the UCLA Bruins fight for the rebound during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: D.J. Carton #21 of the Marquette Golden Eagles and Johnny Juzang #3 of the UCLA Bruins fight for the rebound during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Justin Lewis #2 of the Marquette Golden Eagles and Jalen Hill #24 of the UCLA Bruins fight for the rebound during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Dawson Garcia #33 of the Marquette Golden Eagles looks to pass the ball against Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after getting fouled with Johnny Juzang #3 of the UCLA Bruins during the second half against the Marquette Golden Eagles at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jalen Hill #24 of the UCLA Bruins defends the rebound against Greg Elliott #5 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jalen Hill #24 of the UCLA Bruins dunks the ball during the second half against the Marquette Golden Eagles at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Head coach Mike Cronin of the UCLA Bruins reacts to a play during the first half against the Marquette Golden Eagles at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Koby McEwen #25 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: D.J. Carton #21 of the Marquette Golden Eagles shoots a three point basket defended by Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins during the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Johnny Juzang #3 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Jamal Cain #23 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: A general view of the empty seats at UCLA Pauley Pavilion while Chris Smith #5 of the UCLA Bruins takes a free throw shot during the second half of the game against the Marquette Golden Eagles on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 11: Jalen Hill #24 of the UCLA Bruins dunks the ball over D.J. Carton #21 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • UCLA guard Jules Bernard (1), forward Jalen Hill (24) and guard Chris Smith (5) celebrate a win over Marquette after an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

of

Expand

LOS ANGELES — UCLA’s shooting performance was a classic tale of hot and cold on Friday night. The Bruins endured separate stretches of five, six and seven consecutive misses. The stretches of six and seven were separated by one made shot.

When the shots weren’t falling, UCLA made up for it on defense, which anchored a 69-60 victory over Marquette at Pauley Pavilion despite a combined shooting performance of 3 for 20 from preseason All-American Chris Smith and sharpshooter Johnny Juzang.

“I’m proud of tonight’s game,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “It’s a game that reinforces what I coach because Chris (Smith) and Johnny (Juzang) going 3 for 20 won’t happen (again). We were still able to win the game.”

UCLA (5-1) held Marquette (4-2) to just six points in the final eight minutes of the game – part of a 14-3 run to finish the night. Three of UCLA’s four blocked shots came in the final five minutes. Two from Jalen Hill and one from Smith.

“Chris showed a lot of maturity tonight,” Cronin said of the team’s lone senior. “He had a big block, big rebounds and free throws to help us win the game.”

Jaime Jaquez Jr. led the Bruins with a career-high-tying 18 points and six rebounds. Jules Bernard, who came off the bench for the first time this season, added 15 points and seven rebounds. Juzang, the Kentucky transfer who started in his second game, finished with nine points (3 for 12 from the field) and Smith (0 for 8) scored four.

Bernard’s 15 points came on just seven shot attempts with no turnovers. He also added two steals.

“I’m a player who’s ready to play,” Bernard said. “Whether I start or come off the bench. I just played aggressive like I always do.”

“He’s become a very, very good player in front of our eyes,” Cronin said.

Juzang delivered a clutch jump shot with 2:12 left that extended UCLA’s lead to five points. If there was a time for UCLA to catch a hot shooting streak, it was at the end of the night. The Bruins converted on six of their last 10 field-goal attempts.

All of Smith’s free-throw attempts came in the final seven minutes, and he converted four of them, which helped to seal the game. It was all by design.

“We were struggling shooting,” Cronin said. “We wanted to get to the free-throw line late game, get Chris closer to the basket and get him to the free-throw line. It worked out for us.”

Marquette had won four of five coming in, including an upset of then-No. 4 Wisconsin. But the Eagles were held to just two field goals over the final seven minutes of their first road game. Marquette’s Dawson Garcia made a pair of free throws to tie the score for the last time at 56-all. Neither team ever led by double digits.

“We played a lot smarter the last eight minutes defensively,” Cronin said. “We got to the foul line and got a few key offensive rebounds.”

UCLA finished the night shooting 41% from the field, but Marquette’s 43% wasn’t much better. Marquette also had 18 turnovers to UCLA’s seven.

The Bruins fell behind by as many as seven in the first half after a Jamal Cain dunk made it 18-11. UCLA weathered an offensive drought that lasted more than three minutes, which included five consecutive empty possessions. David Singleton ended the shooting woes when he drained a corner 3-pointer.

Not only did Singleton’s 3 stop the drought, it sparked an offensive surge that saw the Bruins make nine of their next 11 field-goal attempts. Bernard made back-to-back shots, including a 3-pointer of his own before Jaquez Jr. thundered home an alley-oop in transition delivered from Tyger Campbell.

UCLA carried a 36-34 lead into halftime.

Friday night’s win is UCLA’s best of the season thus far, especially after it thumped mid-majors Seattle and San Diego. Its double-digit victory over Cal was expected and the triple-overtime victory over Pepperdine is looking more respectable after the Waves took down Cal themselves, handily.

Furthermore, the Bruins’ only loss – to San Diego State in the season opener – is hardly embarrassing after the unbeaten Aztecs took down Pac-12 contender Arizona State, 80-68, on Thursday night in Tempe.

“This was a big game for us. We knew (Marquette) had just knocked off Wisconsin,” Bernard said.

UP NEXT

UCLA hosts Long Beach State on Tuesday in a game that had been postponed last month.

Party in Pauley, Bruins win! 👏@jaquez_jr’s ties career-best 18 points as @UCLAMBB moves to 3-0 all-time against Marquette. pic.twitter.com/MYZ9txv5yA

— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) December 12, 2020

“I knew we had struggled from the 3-point line, as far as our shooting was concerned. When I saw an opening, I just took it and knew that we were in the bonus so I was driving, trying to draw fouls.”

Jaime Jaquez Jr. (@jaquez_jr), speaking to the media after UCLA’s win pic.twitter.com/z3r0AZM8by

— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) December 12, 2020

“Jules Bernard, obviously, the MVP in tonight’s game. His defense on their best players, his toughness, his rebounding, his efficiency on offense … He’s becoming a very good player in front of our eyes.”

Coach Cronin, speaking via Zoom after UCLA’s win pic.twitter.com/1L7U9XoayZ

— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) December 12, 2020

Jalen Hill finishes off a 6-0 UCLA run with this alley oop from @tygercampbell15!

Bruins lead by six with just 5:05 left in regulation.

📺: @Pac12Network
🖥: https://t.co/ZzjQRYhgcz#GoBruins pic.twitter.com/dG2t2GRs25

— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) December 12, 2020

.@JohnnyJuzang hits a long jumper to make it a 65-60 game and force a Marquette timeout.

📺: @Pac12Network
🖥: https://t.co/ZzjQRYhgcz#GoBruins pic.twitter.com/W14yZku394

— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) December 12, 2020

.@jules__bernard is good with the left again and UCLA leads by four!

📺: @Pac12Network
🖥: https://t.co/ZzjQRYhgcz#GoBruins pic.twitter.com/AWaHI8Q5y0

— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) December 12, 2020

Powered by WPeMatico