USC pulls away to defeat Drake in NCAA tournament first-round game
Ryan Kartje (LA Times) — Tenacious defense had taken USC this far, back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years, primed for a possible postseason run at a pivotal point in Andy Enfield’s eighth season at the helm. So when the Trojans finally decided to clamp down in their tournament debut Saturday, Drake quickly came apart.
A huge first-half from Joseph Yesufu, the Bulldogs’ fearless point guard, kept Drake alive for the first half and the few minutes that followed. But it wasn’t enough to upend an elite defensive effort from USC, which eventually rolled to a 72-56 victory in a West Region game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The sixth-seeded Trojans (23-7) will face third-seeded Kansas on Monday, with a chance to earn an invite to their first Sweet 16 since 2007, seven years before Enfield took the job at USC.
In his eight seasons, the coach hasn’t seen a defense quite like the one USC trotted out in the second half against No. 11 Drake. USC shut down Yesufu, clogged the lane, and allowed just 19 points after halftime. At one point, the Bulldogs (26-5) were just two for 23 from the perimeter.
Even as USC got off to a slow start in the second half, it didn’t matter. Its defense ruled the day.
The Mobley brothers paced the offense, as star freshman Evan Mobley led the team with 17 points and 11 rebounds to go with three blocks. His brother, Isaiah, was even more efficient on the offensive end, making six of seven shots for 15 points.
Until the wheels fell off midway through the second half, Drake seemed poised to keep it close. Yesufu scored 11 of the Bulldogs’ first 13 points. He had 18 at the half, as USC led by just three points.
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