My Trojan loving buddies are excited again. After the wild football season they had, capped off by a Heisman for Caleb Williams that sadly ended with a heartbreaking one-point Cotton Bowl loss, basketball loomed all the more important for them to regain their passion.
It’s not that the Trojans are not a very good team, indeed, they’ve made the NCAA tournament each of the past two years. It’s just that they’re often not as good as their archrivals from across town, the UCLA Bruins, who are to basketball what they are in football and then some. Even in 2021, when the Trojans advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in two decades before succumbing to eventual champion Gonzaga, the Bruins went a step further, losing to the Zags in the Final Four four days later.
So, after a heartbreaking two-point loss earlier in the month in Westwood against a Bruins team in the midst of what became a 14-game winning streak, Thursday night’s rematch at the Galen Center on their downtown LA campus loomed all the more important.
And then, they rode the Boogie to revenge and relevance. As the Los Angeles Times’ Ryan Kartje recapped:
There wouldn’t be many more shots like this. For USC, a team just rounding into form, opportunities to state its case to the NCAA tournament selection committee were so sparse from here it couldn’t afford to squander any left. Least of all against its bitter rival, UCLA, one of the few Pac-12 teams capable of catching the committee’s attention.
It was with those stakes on his shoulders that Boogie Ellis stepped back from the top of the key Thursday night and let a final-minute three-pointer fly. Just a few weeks ago, when the two crosstown rivals last met, it was Ellis who unraveled down the stretch, committing an inexplicable offensive foul that turned the tide late.
This time, the Trojans point guard would be his own one-man tidal wave, sweeping away UCLA with a second-half effort that might rank among the most memorable in the recent history of the rivalry. This time, with Ellis in search of redemption and USC in search of a statement, the furious comeback would not fall short in a 77-64 victory over UCLA.
“We needed a big statement win,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
USC got just that on Thursday, handing UCLA its second consecutive defeat and its fifth straight loss at Galen Center. The Trojans sit just a game behind the Bruins in the Pac-12 race, a possibility that seemed unlikely a few short weeks ago.
So, at 15-6, and with an earlier win against a Top 20 team against Auburn in December, the Trojans head into the February regular season home stretch with renewed optimism, a squared record against their rivals, who also happen to be a Top 10 team, and more than a fighting chance to make a third consecutive NCAA tournament for the first time since the O.J. Mayo era of 2007-2009.
Wouldn’t in be serendipitous–and, indeed, high drama, if these teams met for a rubber match during the Pac 12 Tournament in Las Vegas in March? I kinda need to get to Vegas again. I have very warm memories of time there with a few of my buds, and some strong intentions to carve out a future.
A chance to see a game like that with a few of them in person, at long last, is a very worthy wish to have.
Cuz were that to occur, I know we’d Boogie Oogie Oogie till we just can’t Boogie no more.
If you don’t get the reference, Google it.