Los Angeles, CA – USC junior Nick Rakocevic went on a tear to begin the second half, scoring 10 straight points and 14 of the Trojans first 18 of the half.
The 6-11 forward scored a career-high 27 points to help the Trojans to a 82-73 win over Cal in the conference opener Thursday night at the Galen Center.
“I owe my teammates all the credit,” Rakocevic said. “They were looking for me and made my job easier. I just had to make layups.”
The Trojans improved to 8-6 and won its third straight game. Rakocevic made 12-of-14 from the field while Bennie Boatwright added 19 points. USC junior guard Derryck Thornton recorded his first career double-double, scoring 13 points while dishing out 12 assists.
“We made adjustments at halftime and Nick was able to get behind the defense,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “He did a great job of finding the open area. He played efficiently and extremely well in the second half.”
USC led by as many as 11 in the first half and 15 in the second half but Cal made went on a 17-6 run to trim the lead, 71-67, with 2:45 left in the game. Shaqquan Aaron drained a three and Boatwright knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the lead.
“Shaqquan’s three (late) was huge,” Boatwright said. “It stopped their run. It was a big-time shot by a big-time player. And Nick had a heck of a game.”
With only seven scholarship players and two walk-ons available for the game, USC managed to lead the majority of the game and finished with 21 assists. The Trojans are averaging 20.5 assists this season.
“Assists are key for us,” Enfield said. “We need to share the basketball and take uncontested shots. I’m proud of our guys, we’re leading the Pac-12 again in assists.”
Freshman guard Elijah Weaver re-aggravated his left ankle sprain during shootaround today and is listed as day-to-day. Sophomore guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. is still out recovering from left pinky surgery and freshman guard Kevin Porter Jr. is still out recovering from a right quadriceps contusion.
“We played hard with a short bench,” Enfield said. “We shared the basketball. I’m proud of their effort. We had 7 scholarship players tonight. It’s very challenging. It’s hard to get in a rhythm, it’s hard to practice. We need guys to get healthy.”
USC will stay home to host Stanford Sunday at 5 p.m.