Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — The college athletic year was cut short suddenly by the spread of COVID-19. But despite the abbreviated season, there were several memorable moments at USC in 2019-20.
There was Michael Pittman’s senior moment, Jonah Mathews’ swan song, some stunning upsets and the ballad of Matt Fink. Here’s a look at the highlights of USC’s 2019-20 seasons:
1. Michael Pittman Jr. scores two fourth-quarter TDs to complete comeback over Colorado.
2. Women’s basketball knocks off undefeated UCLA in double-overtime.
USC had no business being in this game; the Trojans had lost to the Bruins by 24 points not three weeks prior. But the Trojans led for most of regulation and had a chance to win in the first overtime before UCLA’s Natalie Chou hit a buzzer-beater to tie the score. After falling behind by five in the second OT, Alissa Pili and Aliyah Jeune combined for USC’s 11 points in the period to pull off the 70-68 win.
3. Jonah Mathews beats UCLA with final shot at Galen Center.
UCLA’s Cody Riley hit two free throws to give the Bruins a one-point lead with nine seconds left. USC head coach Andy Enfield put the team’s fate in the hands of senior captain Jonah Mathews, on senior day, no less. Mathews dribbled up the court, went left, stepped back and drained a 3-pointer with one second left. UCLA’s heave was off, and USC held on for a 54-52 win in front of a frenzied sold-out crowd.
4. Penelope Hocking’s record-breaking performance in women’s soccer tournament opener.
The USC women’s soccer team reached the Elite Eight in the fall. That run was highlighted by the Trojans’ NCAA playoff opener, in which sophomore Penelope Hocking scored four goals and assisted on a fifth in a 5-1 victory over Fresno State. Her four goals, all of which came in the second half, were the most by a Trojan in postseason history and tied the USC single-game record.
5. Third-string QB Matt Fink leads USC to win over Utah.
When Slovis went down during the first series against Utah with a concussion, USC was left with one scholarship quarterback on the roster: Matt Fink. The junior came in and completed that first drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns, and the Fink party was on. He finished by completing 21 of 30 passes for 351 yards, three touchdowns and one interception to lead the Trojans to a 30-23 win over the 10th-ranked Utes.
6. Men’s tennis wins fourth ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
The Trojans, who finished the season ranked No. 1, swept through the indoor championships with wins over TCU, Stanford, Michigan and then North Carolina in the title round. That last victory was extra sweet given it was the Tar Heels who knocked USC out of the NCAA Tournament last year. Daniel Cukierman, Mor Bulis, Stefan Dostanic and Riley Smith were all named to the all-tournament team.
7. Baseball beats defending champs Vanderbilt.
In its first season under head coach Jason Gill, USC was looking for a statement win to show that it was turning the corner following several under-performing seasons. The Trojans got that with a 2-1 win over No. 2 Vanderbilt, last year’s College World Series winner, a day after beating No. 22 TCU. Against the Commodores, John Beller threw eight two-hit innings, the lone run coming on a lead-off home run in the first inning.
8. Men’s basketball rallies from 20 down to beat Stanford.
USC was down by five with 13 seconds left in regulation when Ethan Anderson and Mathews stole consecutive inbounds passes, the second of which set up a game-tying 3-pointer by Elijah Weaver (left), who was fouled on the play. Weaver missed the potential game-winning free throw, but in overtime completed a three-point play to give USC its first lead since the first half, then hit three more free throws and a reverse layup to give the Trojans the 82-78 win.
9. Women’s water polo gets revenge against Stanford.
USC’s women’s water polo team beat rival UCLA in the semifinals of the Barbara Kalbus Invitational to set up a championship match against the Cardinal. The Trojans lost to Stanford in the 2019 national championship game, but got revenge with a 10-5 win in February, with eight different Trojans contributing to the scoring while Holly Parker recorded eight saves for USC. The wins over Stanford and UCLA, then the top-two teams in the country, vaulted USC to the No. 1 ranking.
10. Women’s golf closes strong.
The USC women’s golf team won its last two tournaments – the Rebel Beach Intercollegiate and the Bruin Wave Invitational – to finish the season ranked No. 1 according to Golfweek.com before the 2019-20 campaign was abruptly brought to an end.
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