Sunday, 04 February 2018 16:30

Late UCLA Rally Ends USC's Winning Streak

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Welsh T USC020318The game had emotion, it had runs that made you think that one team was getting ready to blow the other team out. It was a back and forth affair where the lead changed hands 18 times.

The Trojans led in the game for 25:56. It was tied for 5:13 and the Bruins for only 8:51, but UCLA (16-7, 7-4) led when it counted most 82-79 when the clock clicked its last second. USC (17-7, 8-3) saw their six-game winning streak come to a heartbreaking end.

“Extremely proud of our guys,” UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford said. “We challenged them over the last two weeks and the wins over Cal and Stanford were a step in the right direction. But as I told them all week this is the best team we’ve played in Pauley since Cincinnati.

“I wanted to see where we were. I think we took a really big step today because they are a really good basketball team with a lot of experience. Both teams fought hard, especially with the bye week. This week started off well because our managers were able to get a win on Monday so shout out to our managers as well.”

Bruin point guard, Aaron Holiday was simply put outstanding. He played the entire 40 minutes while garnering game highs for points (23) and assists (nine).

“What else can you say about Aaron Holiday,” Alford said. “He just does it game in and game out. He proved once again tonight that he is one of the best point guards in the country.”

The birthday boy, Thomas Welsh was also key in the Bruin victory, scoring 21 points including a huge three in the decisive closing minutes and hitting two clutch free throws to give the Bruins some breathing room in the waning moments of the game.

“He [Welsh] hit a big three,” Alford said.” It was a great birthday present for him as he turns 22 today. He has 21 points and eight rebounds wearing a mask and that’s amazing to me.

“I played for a long time and can’t imagine playing in a mask. What he is doing for us and he’s been playing in a mask basically since Stanford. He’s been playing the entire league season minutes three games in a mask and averaging a double-double. He’s just a very special player. Whatever credit he gets he means about four times that because I think he’s that special.”

Kris Wilkes also hit some big threes and scored 13 points, but you don’t win a game like this one on offense alone. The Bruins came up big defensively when they needed it most.

“We got some big stops in the second half,” Alford said. “I’m proud of our toughness. We were up one, they call timeout and then we were down 69-60. I thought we proved a lot of our toughness from that point on.

“When you’re down nine points inside eight minutes against a team like this, that’s not easy. For us to win…I think we’ve grown. We’ve grown a lot in the last two weeks and now we have to take our show on the road. I’m excited where we are at.”

UCLA now heads to the desert to take on the two Arizona schools. Starting with a huge game on Thursday Evening against the first-place Arizona Wildcats (19-5, 9-2) who are coming off a 78-75 loss to Washington (17-6, 7-3) in Seattle.

Tipoff in Tucson is scheduled for 7:00 PM PST and will be televised nationally on ESPN and can be heard locally on UCLA’s flagship station AM 570.

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