LOS ANGELES -- Just when the Sports Arena was starting to finally feel like home, this game comes around.
UCLA will play USC Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m at the Sports Arena and the Bruins will be the home team even though the Trojans will be able to walk to the arena and the Bruins must take a bus across town.
Such is the life for UCLA this season as the Bruins have played all of their games off campus while Pauley Pavilion undergoes a renovation, but this us the first time they'll play a home game so close to their opponent's campus
"All of our games haven’t really felt like home games so this isn’t really anything new," center Joshua Smith said. "People have said that they will have a lot of fans there being that it is on their campus, but it doesn’t matter. We’re just going to go out there and play."
When UCLA first announced that it would use the Sports Arena as it's home venue this season, one of the the biggest concerns was it's proximity to USC. The arena is not technically part of USC's campus, but it's adjacent. The Trojans used the venue as their home court from 1959-2006 before moving into the Galen Center just down the street.
UCLA has done a nice job UCLA-ifying the place, with blue uplighting, blue signage, blue paint, a UCLA logo on the court and national championship banners hung from the rafters, but there is nothing they can do about the location of the venue so it will be interesting to see which team draws more fans.
"I’m not concerned at all," guard Tyler Lamb said. "We’re not playing to see how many fans go to the game, we’re playing to win. That’s the main thing. We are playing on SC’s campus, but I still feel like it’s a home game for us. We’ve been playing there all year and we’ve adjusted to it pretty well. I think we’re still going to get great fan support."
The Bruins (14-11, 7-6 Pac-12) haven't drawn particularly well at the Sports Arena, with an average of 5,510 in their 11 games there. The only saving grace is that USC (6-20, 1-12) isn't much of a draw either. The Trojans are averaging a conference-low 4,108 for home games, so the Bruins might not have to be too worried about the crowd being pro-USC.
But then again, this rivalry does tend to bring the fans out of the woodwork. The last time the teams met, there were 8,474 at the Galen Center--the biggest USC home crowd this season by more than 2,000.
"I really do want to see if we’re going to have more fans than them," guard Lazeric Jones said. "I’m sure we’ll get more of our fans out there. Hopefully I don’t have to go out and recruit fans."
The Bruins will be heavy favorites. Injury-plagued USC is enduring one of the worst seasons in school history with four key players out for the season. When UCLA played USC on Jan. 15, the Bruins won easily, 66-47, and that was before the Trojans lost starting forwards Aaron Fuller and Dewayne Dedmon.
Fuller (10.6 points, 5.9 rebounds) was the team's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder. Dedmon (7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds) was fourth in scoring and second in rebounding. The Trojans have lost 13 of their last 14 games and haven't scored more than 50 points in three consecutive games.
Still, the Bruins can ill-afford to take anyone lightly, let alone the crosstown rival.
"The bottom line is if USC beats us tomorrow, that will really be a feather in their cap with everything they’ve gone through," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We know they’re going to come out and play really hard and play really tough."