UCLA at USC
Time: 9:15 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: USC -4.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The USC Trojans are 21-9 with a 12-5 mark in Pac-12 play. It will host the visiting UCLA Bruins as 4.5-point favorites. UCLA is 10-7 in Pac-12 play and trails USC by 2-games in the Pac-12 standings.
USC is just one-game behind No. 1 Arizona for the best record in the Conference, and both UCLA and USC present a host of problems to the Arizona Wildcats in a potential conference showdown. The over/under for the game is set at 157 points, and it will air at 9:15 PM (Central) on ESPN Saturday night.
USC is riding a four-game win streak entering tonight’s contest, with victories over Lehigh, Vanderbilt, N. Dakota St. and CS Fullerton.
The Trojans have been led by the quartet of Chimezie Metu, Bennie Boatwright, Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart. Metu paces the team in scoring at 15.9 points per game, and he leads the team in rebounding too with 7.3 per game. McLaughlin leads the team from the 1-spot and is tallying 7.6 assists per game while averaging 12.3 points. He is also shooting 41.3 percent from distance, which ranks only behind fringe rotation player Jordan Usher (42.9 percent). The Trojans average 78 points per game while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor as a team and 38.2 percent from three-point range.
Metu has been huge on the interior on both ends of the court. His 1.7 blocks per game lead the team, and he is efficient on the offensive end of the court, too, where he shoots 52 percent from the floor and 74 percent from the line. The junior forward was a staple last season when he averaged 14.8 points per game, but he has gotten only better as a senior with a three-point shot added into the mix which he shoots at a 32.4 percent clip.
The 6-foot-11 forward should be in play to be selected in the NBA draft, or at least have a shot at an NBA career, which presumably is why he has added the triple to his arsenal. He had 14 points and nine rebounds in the win over Utah on Feb. 24, and over his past five games he is averaging 17 points per game, with a high game of 21 points against Colorado. Against Colorado he shot 10 of 16 from the field and blocked two shots, hitting 1 of 2 from three. He is a major player UCLA will have to contend with tonight.
UCLA is 19-10 on the season with a 10-7 mark in conference play. It has won its past three with wins over Creighton, UCA and Georgia Tech. The most recent was the 63-60 win over the Yellow Jackets, as UCLA put four scorers in double figures, but received just six points from its bench while shooting 40.7 percent in the game. The Bruins also had 14 turnovers and just a plus-1 advantage on the boards, but it led by three at the half and maintained that lead in a narrowly contested game coming down the stretch.
Jose Alvarado hit a three with 20-seconds to go that put Georgia Tech down 62-60, and then Jaylen Hands hit 1 of 2 from the line to take a 63-60 lead. Hands had 14 points on the night. UCLA is without freshman LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley following the overseas shop lifting incident that received so much attention.
Even so, the Bruins rely most heavily on Aaron Holiday, Kris Wilkes and Thomas Welch. Holiday averages nearly 20 points and six assists per game, while Welsh is good for 13 points and 10 boards a night. The Bruins have plenty of talent, even with that outstanding incident taking away three of its most prized recruits. Hands is a 6-foot-3 freshman guard with plenty of potential to improve in the upcoming seasons, whatever happens with the aforementioned trio.