UCLA Barely Edges USC To Advance In Pac-12 Tournament

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Isaac Hamilton scored 22 points, and No. 3 UCLA overcame an uneven performance by Lonzo Ball while holding off rival Southern California 76-74 on Thursday night in the Pac-12 quarterfinals.

Ball got into early foul trouble and the young point guard struggled as the Trojans cut into a 14-point deficit before missing a tying 3-pointer and then two more shots in the final minute while trailing by three.

Ball, the Pac-12 freshman of the year, finished with 12 points and seven assists. Next up for Ball and the Bruins is a matchup with No. 7 Arizona in the semifinals on Friday night.

T.J. Leaf scored 14 points in his return after missing a game with a left ankle injury, and Thomas Welsh added 11 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. UCLA (29-3) earned its 10th straight win.

Jordan McLaughlin scored 18 points and Elijah Stewart added 17 for USC (24-9), but each missed shots in the lane in the closing seconds while trailing by three.

Bennie Boatwright scored 11 points, but was 3 of 11 from the field and missed a tying 3 attempt with 34 seconds left.

Meeting in the tournament for the second straight year, the Los Angeles rivals played a much closer game than the last encounter, a 102-70 UCLA rout on Feb. 18. After USC started 1 of 14 from the field, it slowly got back in it.

BIG PICTURE:

Southern California coach Andy Enfield was confident going into the game that the Trojans had done enough to warrant an NCAA invite. A strong showing even in defeat could further help the cause.

It wasn’t easy, but UCLA cleared the first hurdle in a tough three-step task. The Bruins are hoping to beat Arizona on Friday and potentially No. 5 Oregon in the final, a feat that could give them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

UP NEXT:

USC: The Trojans would like to return to the NCAA Tournament and make up for a dismal loss in 2016, when they blew a big lead and lost in the first round to Providence.

UCLA: Friday night will settle the season series with Arizona. Each team won on the other’s home floor in the regular season.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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