USC men’s basketball rebounds with dominant win over Washington State
USC played some of its finest basketball on both ends of the floor as it came away with a blowout 87-64 victory over Washington State Wednesday night at the Galen Center in a bounceback game for the Trojans after a devastating loss to Arizona State on Sunday.
After opening the game on a 22-7 run that was capped with a 3-point field goal from freshman guard Jonah Mathews, USC did not take its foot off the gas pedal offensively for the remainder of the contest.
With its 25-point rout of the Cougars, the Trojans were able to put an end to a brutal four-game losing streak that had spanned the past two weeks. Wednesday night’s victory over Washington State was also USC’s 22nd win of the regular season. It’s the first 22-win season since 2009.
“We played really well on both ends of the ball. We were able to get deflections and that led to buckets and good passing in transition,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “It’s been nice to see our team begin to shoot the ball better over the past couple of games now.”
USC opened the game by hitting five of its first eight shots from beyond the 3-point arc. Overall, the Trojans finished Wednesday night shooting 35-for-66 from the floor (53 percent).
Junior guard Jordan McLaughlin brought arguably his finest performance of the regular season thus far, finishing the game with 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, a rebound shy of his first career triple-double.
“We tried to focus all week on playing good defense, and we were able to lock down tonight,” McLaughlin said. “We did a good job of sticking to the game plan.”
The Trojans were able to find favorable shot selection all night due to their ability to make the extra pass for the easy bucket. USC finished the game with 25 assists.
McLaughlin contributed to the Trojans’ fast start offensively, as he hit his first three 3-point shot attempts of the game.
The Trojans’ largest lead of the game came after a jumper from junior guard Elijah Stewart put the Trojans ahead 70-42 with 12:29 remaining in the game.
Sophomore forward Chimezie Metu put pressure down low for the Trojans, finishing the game with 15 points (6-of-12 shooting), nine rebounds and three blocks defensively.
As a unit, the Trojans were able to put on a strong defensive effort as they finished the game with nine steals and seven blocks.
“It was definitely one of our top [performances in] games played this season,” McLaughlin said. “As far as our team having a sense of urgency, we knew that we really needed to focus for tonight’s game.”
USC’s ability to capitalize upon Washington State’s offensive miscues in the first half helped the Trojans develop their large halftime lead. USC scored 17 points off of the Cougars 11 first-half turnovers.
The Trojans committed only two turnovers offensively in the entire first half.
USC’s combination of scrappy defense, efficient offense and solid transitional play helped them develop a comfortable 48-28 lead at the half.
The Trojans kept the pressure on Washington State offensively to finish the game, as they shot 17-for-30 (56.7 percent) from the floor in the second half.
USC will look to keep its hot shooting going as it concludes its regular season at home this Saturday with a contest against visiting Washington. With Pac-12 Tournament play and NCAA Selection Sunday all transpiring within the next two weeks, USC will attempt to use Saturday’s contest against the Huskies as a springboard into postseason play.
“I told the guys that we are playing a two-game season right now,” Enfield said. “We won the first game and now we have a one-game season to be played Saturday. We’ve had by far the toughest schedule in the Pac-12. We’ve played the top-three teams twice, so it’s definitely nice to have our last two games being played at home.”