The USC men’s basketball team will close out its home schedule against the Washington Huskies in a battle among two of the worst teams in the conference, and the only meeting between the two teams this season. In a season filled with turmoil, USC would love to end its home season on a high note with a big win.
In this penultimate game, the Trojans will lean on their two leaders to pave the path to victory. Sophomore guard Julian Jacobs has developed into a true captain throughout the season and should continue to be a vocal leader for the Trojans in this pivotal matchup. Sophomore forward Nikola Jovanovic will also look to be productive and prove that he truly is a go-to option on a team that is constantly looking for a star.
The Trojans are coming off a 70-66 loss to the Washington State Cougars in a closely contested game. The Cougars were led by redshirt senior guard Dexter Kernich-Drew, who had 19 points and five rebounds. Senior guard DaVonté Lacy also added 17 points, while sophomore forward Josh Hawkinson posted a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
USC was led by Jacobs, who continued to fill the stat line with 16 points, five rebounds and nine assists. Freshman forward Malik Marquetti had a solid game with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, and redshirt sophomore guard Katin Reinhardt scored 16 points off the bench, but it was not enough for the Trojans to best the Cougars.
“I think all teams go through adversity at some point in the season,” USC head coach Andy Enfield told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve had quite a bit of it.”
Washington is led by head coach Lorenzo Romar, leading scorer sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss and junior guard Andrew Andrews, who was recently named the Pac-12 Player of the Week. Andrews had a career night last Sunday against the in-state rival Cougars. He scored a career-high 35 points and even hit the buzzer-beater to win the game. His 35 points were the most by a Huskies player since Brandon Roy way back in 2005. The dynamic pairing of Williams-Goss and Andrews has scored or assisted on 78 percent of Washington’s points over the last six games.
Though the Trojans are focused on beating the Huskies, they have recently been dealing with a lot of off-court drama. During their most recent road trip, three players were sent home for violating team rules, including Reinhardt. Once the team returned, there was a scuffle after practice between two of the team’s starters, Jacobs and redshirt sophomore Darion Clark. Enfield said that the fight had nothing to do with the team’s struggles and that it was a personal issue that was quickly resolved.
“They’re good friends, so there’s nothing there,” Enfield told the L.A. Times. “They’ve made up and they just got into an argument about something trivial.”
The Trojans hope that these distractions will not bleed into their performance at the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. The tournament will kick off on March 11 and run through March 14. It will be held once again in the MGM Grand Garden Arena and will give the Trojans a chance to prove that they can be competitive with the rest of the conference, including powerhouses like the Arizona Wildcats and the Utah Utes, two teams that USC had trouble with earlier in the season. USC will have to do this without freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who will miss the rest of the season due to a lingering shoulder injury.
The game between USC and Washington will tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 from the Galen Center, and it will be televised live on the Pac-12 Network.