LOS ANGELES -- — Drew Peterson had his first double-double of the season with a career-high 27 points and 12 rebounds, leading No. 21 Southern California to a 67-64 win over No. 12 UCLA on Saturday night.
Petersen also had five blocks as the Trojans picked up their fifth straight rivalry win despite being without leading scorer Isaiah Mobley for the second straight game because of concussion-like symptoms. Mobley broke his nose in a loss at No. 4 Arizona last Saturday.
“I was, I think, 1 of 13 in the Arizona game, and I was passing up 3’s the other day against Pacific, but my coaches and teammates trust me to shoot. Fortunately, I was knocking them down tonight and I was feeling really confident, and that’s something I had to work through,” Peterson said.
The Bruins (17-5, 9-4) nearly forced overtime with a late push in the final 41 seconds after being down by eight points. Tyga Campbell’s desperation 3-pointer went off the back of the rim as time expired, allowing the boisterous crowd at Galen Center to rush the court, which included the largest student section to attend a game since its opening in 2006.
“The way we’re playing, I don’t know why anyone would storm the court for beating us,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said.
Campbell was the only player in double figures for UCLA, scoring 27 points, with 13 coming from the free-throw line. Johnny Juzang scored 12 points for UCLA, which was slowed by dismal 19-of-63 shooting from the field.
“The whole time I was just worried about winning and keeping us in the game and doing what coach needed us to do,” Campbell said. “It was a tough one, all credit to USC, but we got to be on to the next one.”
Peterson helped push the Trojans ahead late in the second half. He blocked Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s shot and hit a jumper before Ethan Anderson’s runout pushed the lead to 54-48 with 6:24 remaining.
The defensive effort keyed by Peterson saw USC pick up 10 blocks and seven steals, with their length frequently frustrating UCLA.
“I’d almost consider myself a liability the last few years defensively, and I really made sure ‘cause the coaches kept telling me you’ve got it in you and you’re athletic enough to do it, and I really made it a mission to try and play better defense this year,” Peterson said.
The Bruins turned up their intensity around the rim to start the second. UCLA had a five-point possession in which Juzang hit a corner 3 after Jaquez got his own rebound on a missed free throw. The Bruins led by as many as four points before the Trojans fired back.
“My concern right now is defensively, we can’t get the job done, and until we become a better defensive team, we’re not gonna win any games,” Cronin said.
UCLA: The Bruins’ hopes of winning the Pac-12 are all but over after another loss to their crosstown rival. Last season’s Final Four team can still accomplish big things in the postseason, but salvaging a split with USC at home on March 5 might be the best they can do in the regular season this year with the Wildcats well out in front.
USC: With Mobley out, Peterson stepped up. His shooting from behind the arc helped get the offense going to start the game. Even more impressive was his willingness to get nasty, swatting away good looks around the rim and picking up key rebounds. If Petersen continued that sort of play, the Trojans might be able to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bruins will slip and Trojans should rise in the next Top 25 poll, as the two schools always seem to find themselves linked. However, a better overall resume for UCLA might be enough to keep it ahead of USC.
UCLA: Hosts Washington State on Thursday.
USC: Hosts Washington on Thursday.
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