UCLA is headed for the NCAA basketball tournament’s Sweet 16.
Crosstown rival USC missed it by four points.
The Bruins — powered by 19 points and nine assists by freshman sensation Lonzo Ball — shook off a slow start to pull away from the University of Cincinnati in the second half, en route to a 79-67 win Sunday evening in the second round of the tournament, commonly referred to as March Madness.
The victory in Sacramento over the determined sixth-seeded Bearcats, who finished the season 30-6, sends third-seeded UCLA (31-4) to the NCAA’s South Regional finals in Memphis, where they will play second-seeded Kentucky on Friday.
This is UCLA’s third trip in four seasons to the Sweet 16 under head coach Steve Alford.
USC — attempting to be the fourth team to make the Sweet 16 after winning a play-in game in the 68-team tournament — took things to the wire in a hard-fought 82-78 East Regional loss to third-seeded Baylor in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The 11th-seeded Trojans (26-10), who under head coach Andy Enfield set a USC season record for wins, had rallied for victories in their first two post- season games against Providence and SMU and almost did it again Sunday evening against Baylor (27-7).
USC was nursing a 67-65 lead with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the game, until a rare four-point play by Baylor guard Manu Lecomte gave the Bears a 69-67 lead they maintained to the end.
Lecomte, a Belgium native held in check for most of the contest, poured in eight points in a 45-second span that helped fuel the Bears winning finish.
Trojan big man Chimezie Metu tossed in 28 points in a superb effort. Bennie Boatwright tallied 16 for USC, attempting to make the Sweet 16 for the first time in 10 seasons.
—City News Service
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