The battle for the city of Los Angeles plays out on Thursday as the USC Trojans make the drive to Pauley Pavilion to play the UCLA Bruins.
USC Trojans vs. UCLA Bruins (-12.5, 140.5)
The Trojans had a bumpy start to the season with not having the services of freshman big man Vince Iwuchukwu, but appear to have found an identity with wins in seven of their last eight games.
Down low is where USC has had success this season, ranking 13th in the country in percentage of opponents shots that are blocked with Joshua Morgan fifth among the qualifying Division I players with 2.8 blocks per game.
The protection in the paint has also led to USC ranking fourth in opponent 2-point field goal shoot percentage in road and neutral court games and 11th in away from home opponent field goal shooting percentage overall.
Despite the rim protection of USC, UCLA enters Thursday with the more efficient defense, ranking 12th in the nation in points allowed on a per possession basis.
UCLA’s defensive success has come in large part due to their guards active hands, ranking 10th among Division I teams in turnovers forced per offensive play.
Though USC enters Thursday ranked 269th in turnovers on a per possession basis this season, the Trojans have cut down on the turnovers with 12 or fewer in five of their last eight games.
These two teams have played 13 times since the last time UCLA defeated USC by more than 11 points, a 102-70 UCLA win on February 18, 2017 with Lonzo Ball on the Bruins roster.
With UCLA taking just 26.2% of their shots from 3-point range, eighth-lowest percentage of any Division I team, USC’s rim protection make them a live underdog on Thursday.
The Play: USC +12.5
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