LOS ANGELES Three of out of four isn't bad. In fact, it was rather good for UCLA in this town.
UCLA and USC have played four halves of basketball this season, and the Bruins had clear control of all but one of them. The crosstown showdown, the verbal battle between coaches Andy Enfield and Steve Alford, never really amounted to much on the court in two comfortable UCLA victories.
UCLA (18-5, 7-3 Pac-12) shook off last week's road loss to Oregon State and remained in second place in the conference.
"Any time you lose or have a setback, it's not easy getting back up," Alford said. "I just thought in the first half, we just kind of had that demeanor. In the second half, we came out with a much different demeanor."'
Credit the Bruins with patience. They trailed by double digits in front of a surprising raucous crowd against USC (10-13, 1-9), which showed genuine interest in passing the ball, and being aggressive offensively, for one of the few times this season.
Byron Wesley, USC's most talented all-around player, had 18 points at halftime, and the Trojans took a 41-35 lead into the break. But UCLA forced a turnover on the first possession of the second half and didn't take long to flip the game.
UCLA outscored a suddenly timid USC, 27-6, over the first 7:11 of the second half, and that allowed UCLA to follow up its 37-point victory over USC last month with another going-away win.
"We knew the second half would be a battle," Enfield said. "(The Bruins) elevated their game."
The Bruins made 6 of 8 attempts from 3-point range in the second half and led by 16 points.
UCLA's Norman Powell scored 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half. Kyle Anderson had 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and Jordan Adams had 17 points and eight rebounds.
After his brilliant first half, Wesley made only three field goals in the second half as part of his game-high 27 points. USC actually outshot UCLA, 46.6 to 40 percent, but once UCLA slowed Wesley in the second half, nobody stepped forward for USC.
"We didn't come out with the same sense of urgency we had in the first half,'' USC guard Pe'Shon Howard said. "We probably got too comfortable. That's something we need to work on.''
At the start of this, his first season, Enfield sold USC as an up-tempo, run-and-shoot team, and inadvertently, but publicly, ridiculed the Bruins as the slow-playing team in town.
For a half Saturday, one could see Enfield's point. The Trojans, who too often get bogged down in an ineffective half-court offense, passed the ball with purpose and drove to the basket. The Bruins looked confused, and they had good reason, because USC played faster than it ever had this season.
The frantic pace suited USC, and especially Wesley, who made 7 of 9 shots in the first half. Wesley made a 3-pointer, then another, then a layup, and the Trojans led by 10 with 4:49 left in the half.
UCLA looked aimless, with only Anderson playing well. The Bruins' offense worked well in transition, but often UCLA passed up open looks to drive inside, and USC had four first-half blocked shots.
The Bruins primarily turned the game around on defense, though, and forced 15 turnovers. In the second half, USC had only 14 points in the paint and two fast-break points. UCLA's defense turned it into a half-court, perimeter game, and prevented USC from establishing any true inside game.
"It just seems like there's a little stretch in each game where the other team outplays us and goes on a run,'' Enfield said. "UCLA really came out and stepped it up in the second half when they had to.''
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