USC survives barrage of turnovers, defeats Washington 65-61 in Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals

Junior guard Boogie Ellis dribbles the ball during USC's game against Washington on Feb. 17.
Junior guard Boogie Ellis dribbles the ball during USC’s game against Washington on Feb. 17. Ellis led the Trojans in scoring against the Huskies Thursday night. (Polina Past | Daily Trojan file photo)

Head Coach Andy Enfield needed to patch some holes heading into the second half with the Trojans down 3 against Washington. 

First and most evident: Stop graduate student guard Terrell Brown Jr., who had 21 points at the break. He scored just 2 points in the second half. 

Next: Get his own scorers involved. Junior guard Boogie Ellis did just that, posting 10 second-half points. 

The final goal: Close the game out, simple as that. Junior forward Isaiah Mobley came up with two huge defensive stops in the final 30 seconds to seal the win, an emphatic check to close out No. 3 seed USC’s 65-61 win over No. 6 Washington in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals. 

“Down the stretch, big-time players gotta step up,” said Mobley in a postgame press conference. “People always say, ‘Defense wins championships,’ and we’re a team that believes in that … It was big-time money on the line, and we got stops.”

Before Mobley’s heroics, the Trojans were tumultuous in the clutch, committing 4 turnovers inside the last two minutes of the game. 

“I know it’s late, but we didn’t want anyone to leave the arena,” said Enfield jokingly after the postgame press conference. “We kept it very interesting until the final buzzer.” 

Similar to when USC faced UCLA in Westwood, turnovers marred the Trojan offense. Washington’s zone and aggressive double-teaming early on led to steals and errant passes, forcing 3 turnovers in the first five minutes of play. On the night, the Trojans committed 23 turnovers. 

“Our veterans had a lot of turnovers; it’s uncharacteristic to have that many,” Enfield said. “It’s not like our freshmen were doing that, it was our upperclassmen. If [we] want to win more games in this tournament and the NCAA [Tournament], we have to do a better job.”

USC’s carelessness in possession was overshadowed by the Huskies’ poor shooting. Washington hit just 30.8% of their shots from the field and 27.3% of their 3-pointers. 

Brown Jr., who led the Pac-12 in scoring in the regular season, looked unguardable in the first half. He scored the Huskies’ first 9 points, carving up USC’s defense with a variety of layups and jumpers. 

“We made some defensive mistakes [in the first half],” Enfield said. “We decided to trap his ball screens in the second half, put more pressure, make him give the ball up … Our guys did a terrific job [against him] in the second half.”

The second half showed a different story, as Brown Jr. shot 1-of-12 from the floor to finish the game with 23 points. 

“Just taking it personally, as a team, nobody wants guys to come out here and score a lot on us,” Ellis said. “We told each other that, if we could shut him down in the second half, we could win the game, so we did that.”

With the defense sorted out, Ellis’ offense in the second half performance lifted USC above the Huskies. He found his groove in his jumper, posting 17 points total on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.  

USC move on to face UCLA for a third time this season, this time in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. The crosstown rivals are set to play at 8:30 p.m. Friday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.