Trojans drop two of their last three games

Senior guard Drew Peterson dribbles the ball up the court
Senior guard Drew Peterson finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds in the Trojans’ loss to Oregon Jan. 15. (Patrick Hannan | Daily Trojan)

No. 16 men’s basketball began the season with 13 consecutive wins — its best start since 2017 — but have struggled as of late, losing two of their last three games. Just last week, USC was ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll, the highest the Trojans have been ranked since December 1974. 

The first few weeks of the season were filled with excitement and media buzz for the Trojans. Transfer junior guard Boogie Ellis filled in the role of guard Tahj Eaddy — who declared for the NBA draft last April— but with added show stopping, fast paced offense. Ellis is averaging 12.6 points per game on 43% shooting from the field.

Junior forward Isaiah Mobley continued his production from last season with elite defense and premiere post offense; however, the veteran also has received the green light more often. 

Mobley has attempted 63 threes this season, which already surpasses his season total of 39 attempted last season in 16 more games. At 6-foot-10, he has made 28 of his 63 attempted threes for a 3-point percentage of 44%. 

One of the biggest surprises for the Trojans this season has been the increasing role that redshirt senior Chevez Goodwin has played in the team. Goodwin decided to use his extra year of eligibility to return to USC. 

The forward is second on the team in points per game and is shooting 63% from the field, the highest in a season for USC since the stat started being measured in 1991. Team staff along with Head Coach Andy Enfield made the decision to promote Goodwin to a team captain halfway through the season. 

After the team’s 13th consecutive win to start the season, coronavirus cases within the team forced a pause on games. A three-week hiatus was put into place in which the team had many players test positive, forcing them to stop practicing as well. 

USC lost two of their first three games after returning from the hiatus Jan. 6 and dropped to No. 16 in this week’s AP Poll. 

The first loss of the season came to Stanford in a game where poor free throw shooting set USC up for failure from the first whistle. The Trojans shot 65.6% from the charity stripe.

“We have certain things we do most days in practice that we haven’t been able to do just because of lack of practice,” said Enfield in a press conference after a loss to Oregon. “We need to have hard practices and get back to some of the basic concepts that we were pretty good at before.” 

Although this is the first rough patch of the season, the attitude looking toward the future is bright. Rather than dwell on the losses, the team would rather use them as a way to improve. 

“We kind of need [these losses] to see what it’s like to hit some adversity,” Ellis said. “Adversity helps you get better, so we’re gonna lock in and go into practice. Now we know what we have to work on and get better on. Sometimes when you take some losses, it helps you become better as a team.”

Mobley expressed the same view about looking to the future as his teammate Ellis. He emphasized the team still has a long way to go in the season and they just have to keep going. 

“It’s a long season,” Mobley said. “We’re all here and down, but we’re 14-2. We can’t hang our heads because there’s going to be another good team that we gotta play next week and the week after that.” 

USC will continue its season Thursday against Colorado on the road.