USC Jumps Back Hard and Blows Out Outmanned Stanford
Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — LOS ANGELES — There’s nothing quite like an empty-the-bench blowout to get a team back on track.
In its home finale, the USC men’s basketball team buried Stanford, 79-42, in a win that was important both practically and mentally for the Trojans (20-6 overall, 14-5 in Pac-12 play).
It came after a stretch of four games in one week that left USC “flat-out exhausted,” coach Andy Enfield said.
“I never make excuses when we lose games,” Enfield said, “but when I went back and watched the second half of the Utah game, it looked like we were moving at 50% speed.”
On the practical side, USC kept alive its hopes of a regular-season Pac-12 title, though it will need to beat UCLA on Saturday and hope Oregon State upsets Oregon a day later to achieve the goal.
And as for the mental, the victory – the Trojans’ most lopsided of the season – ended USC’s two-game losing streak and a stretch of three losses in four games, an important albatross to shake in the first game of the new month.
“Very important; March is here, so it’s good to come in with some positive energy,” said Chevez Goodwin, who made his first four shots to finish with eight points. “This is the time of year where make or break, if you lose you go home. So we had to get back on track.”
Everyone got in on the fun after videos from family members introduced the Trojan starting lineup.
Tahj Eaddy (2) led all scorers with 16 points and four 3-pointers. Drew Peterson, back in the starting lineup after three games off the bench, scored 15, grabbed nine rebounds and had six assists. Freshman big man Evan Mobley scored 10 and blocked a couple of shots. Max Agbonkpolo came off the bench with eight points.
By the end of the game, the reserves and walk-ons had taken over, with 5-foot-7 Amar Ross draining a 3-pointer as the starters strummed their air guitars on the bench.
It took two minutes for either team to score, and the Cardinal quickly matched Eaddy’s opening jumper. But that was the last point Stanford (14-12, 10-10) scored for the next 8:04.
The USC defense was playing with a different level of energy than it did during last week’s road trip to Colorado and Utah. The Trojans stayed in front of their opponents, contested every shot and swallowed up the rebounds before the Cardinal could get a second chance.
USC forced two shot-clock violations in the first half and limited Stanford to six field goals before halftime. Overall, USC limited the Cardinal to 25.4% shooting from the floor and forced 16 turnovers.
“They were talking and they made the right switches,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “I thought it was a complete effort.”
As the Stanford offense went into a coma, the Trojans broke off a 15-0 run. Peterson started it with a put-back dunk, one of three second-chance baskets in that stretch as USC dominated rebounding 45-27 in the game.
By the time Stanford scored again, on a free throw by former Loyola High forward James Keefe, the Trojans were operating at full force. Step-back 3-pointers by Eaddy. Dunks by the Mobley brothers. Jumpers from Peterson.
USC took a 19-point lead into halftime, and in case there was any doubt about which direction the game was headed, the Trojans hit four straight 3-pointers to start the second. A mid-range pull-up from Peterson made it a 50-19 advantage.
Stanford was woefully undermanned, to be sure. Leading scorer Oscar da Silva missed the game with a lower-body injury, and he was one of three rotation players who didn’t dress for the game.
But after last week’s lows, USC was happy to leave the Galen Center for the final time this season with a win. The team took Sunday off and had what Enfield described as two good days of practice before seeing it come together on the court.
“This was a great team win,” Enfield said. “It was nice to play better basketball here at home.”
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