Lock it down, then fire at will.
Coming off of a close loss at Arizona State University, the University of Southern California men’s basketball team returned home with an up-tempo game and snapped its four-game losing streak, defeating Washington State 87-64 Wednesday night at the Galen Center.
Trojan guard Jordan McLaughlin was one rebound shy of finishing with a triple-double with 16 points and 10 assists. McLaughlin led four Trojans in double figures in scoring and drained four from distance alongside teammate Bennie Boatwright 14 points. Chimezie Metu added 15 points and nine rebounds.
“We focused all week in practice on defense and talking,” McLaughlin said. “We executed everything well tonight, especially the game plan. Coach did a good job and we were all locked in.”
“Coach told us we needed to come out strong and not lackadaisical, especially in the first half,” he continued.
The Trojans (22-8 overall, 9-8 conference) came out guns a-blazing. USC completed 54 percent shooting, drained 10 shots from three and forced 11 Washington State first-half turnovers, including six steals in the half.
“We played really well at both ends of the ball,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “We had nine steals and seven blocks and that helps you get out in transition. We got deflections and we shared the basketball.”
USC dominated the paint and perimeter shooting in the opening minutes and embarked on a 14-1 run within the first seven minutes, then another 9-0 run just a few minutes later. While the offense was clicking for USC, the Trojans kept the Cougars (13-15, 6-10) uncomfortable at the other end of the court. The Trojans sank six from distance and led by as many as 22 points, but settled for a comfortable 48-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Boatwright started the second half with a three ball to put the up Trojans up 23 to start the second interval. It was cruise control from there, but the Cougars recovered from its turnovers and found their shot. Washington State forward Robert Franks led the team with 18 points.
Then, with just one minute remaining, McLaughlin nearly picked up a defensive rebound to complete his triple-double, but teammate Jonah Mathews beat him to the board.
“(Mathews and I) talked in the locker room,” said McLaughlin about Mathews’ rebound. “It’s all good.”
Enfield and the Trojans look ahead to their final regular season game at home against Washington. USC can grab a season sweep the state’s teams with a win, but Enfield said the team needs to come out with the same energy as it did against the Cougars.
“I was proud of our players tonight because they were focused,” Enfield said. “They know what’s at stake. As far as our season, we had a two game season, and tonight was game number one. Saturday will be game number two. Then we’ll go from there.”