Expecting a Front

UCLA cruised through the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals with its first convincing win in two weeks. The Bruins don't expect their next opponent to go down quite as easily.

The third-ranked Bruins meet archrival Southern California in the tournament semifinals at Staples Center on Friday, hoping to advance to the championship game by beating one of only three teams to defeat them this season.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made UCLA –9 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on USC +9 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

UCLA (29-3) closed the regular season with 28 wins - the most in the storied history of the program. The Bruins, however, didn't finish strong, barely squeaking out wins against Arizona, then-No. 7 Stanford and California thanks in part to some favorable and controversial calls in their final two games.

UCLA, though, rebounded with a strong performance against Cal in Thursday's tournament quarterfinals. Junior guard Darren Collison had 19 points with five 3-pointers as the top-seeded Bruins went 14-for-25 from behind the arc in an 88-66 rout.

"It's playoff time now, you have to have a sense of urgency," said freshman center and Pac-10 Player of the Year Kevin Love, who added 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists despite being limited to 19 minutes because of early foul trouble. "That's what great teams do, they never let up. One loss and you're out."

USC (21-10) proved it's capable of knocking out its crosstown rival by beating UCLA 72-63 on Jan. 19. Love had 18 points and 12 boards in that game, but was overmatched by a pair of USC freshmen. Davon Jefferson scored a season-high 25 points with nine rebounds, and O.J. Mayo added 16 points as the Trojans gave the Bruins one of their three losses on the season. Sixth-ranked Texas and Washington are the only other teams to beat UCLA.

"We were way too emotional," UCLA coach Ben Howland said after the loss to USC. "We were so caught up and our emotions took over. We made some bad decisions. I can't remember us ever being like that in the last few years."

The Bruins avenged that loss by beating the Trojans 56-46 on Feb. 17, but they expect another tough matchup Friday.

"Tomorrow's going to be another grudge match, the battle of the city," Love said. "We know we need to come out and play the same style, the same way (as Thursday). It's going to be tough."

The key for the Bruins could be stopping Mayo, who was an integral part of USC's win over UCLA, but scored a season-low four points and committed a season-worst 10 turnovers in the rematch.

Mayo led fourth-seeded USC with 23 points and six assists in a 59-55 win over Arizona State in the tournament quarterfinals on Thursday. The Trojans trailed by seven with 9:35 remaining, but rallied to win for the sixth time in seven games since their loss to the Bruins.

Mayo is averaging 25.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists in that seven-game stretch, while connecting on 28 of his 48 3-point attempts (58.3 percent).

Love, meanwhile, has scored in double figures in every game and averaged 16.4 points and 10.1 rebounds during the Bruins' eight-game win streak.

This is the first Pac-10 tournament meeting between these teams, who have met 225 times before. UCLA has a 125-100 edge in the series, and won six of the last eight games.

The winner of this game will play the winner of the game between No. 11 Stanford and 21st-ranked Washington State in the championship game Saturday.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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