Whicker: Another opponent disappears into USC’s zone of doom

  • Isaiah White #5 of the USC Trojans reacts in the second half of their Sweet Sixteen round game against in the USC Trojans the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

  • Oregon guard Chris Duarte (5) passes around Southern California guard Ethan Anderson, left, during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon guard LJ Figueroa, right, passes around Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley (3) during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley (3) drives up court ahead of Oregon forward Chandler Lawson, right, during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Southern California guard Isaiah White (5) drives to the basket past Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi (2) during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi, left, fights for a rebound with Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley (3) during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi, right, eyes a loose ball in front of Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley (3) during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon guard Chris Duarte (5) shoots over Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley (3) during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon guard Chris Duarte, center, shoots between Southern California guard Isaiah White, left, and forward Evan Mobley, right, during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon guard Will Richardson drives ahead of Southern California guard Drew Peterson (13) during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley shoots over Oregon guard Will Richardson (0) during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Oregon guard Will Richardson drives to the basket ahead of Southern California guard Drew Peterson, left, during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Southern California guard Tahj Eaddy shoots over Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi (2) during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Southern California guard Tahj Eaddy (2) drives between Oregon guard LJ Figueroa, left, and guard Will Richardson, right, during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon head coach Dana Altman watches from the bench during the first half of a Sweet 16 game against Southern California in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon guard LJ Figueroa (12) shoots over Southern California guard Isaiah White, left, during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi, center, fights for a rebound with Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley (3) and forward Chevez Goodwin (1) during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Southern California guard Tahj Eaddy drives to the basket ahead of Oregon center Franck Kepnang, left, during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Isaiah White #5 of the USC Trojans reacts to a play against the Oregon Ducks in the second half of their Sweet Sixteen round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

  • Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley (3) shoots over Oregon forward Eugene Omoruyi (2) during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon guard Will Richardson, right, drives up court in front of Southern California guard Tahj Eaddy (2) during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley (3) drives to the basket ahead of Oregon forward Eric Williams Jr., left, during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Southern California guard Isaiah White (5) shoots over Oregon guard Will Richardson (0) during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Southern California guard Isaiah White celebrates after making a basket during the first half of a Sweet 16 game against Oregon in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon guard Chris Duarte drives to the basket past Southern California guard Isaiah White, right, during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Oregon guard LJ Figueroa (12) tries to steal the ball from Southern California guard Isaiah White, left, during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Southern California forward Evan Mobley (4) fights for the opening tipoff with Oregon guard LJ Figueroa (12) during the first half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Oregon guard LJ Figueroa (12) loses the ball over Southern California forward Isaiah Mobley, left, during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Southern California guard Drew Peterson celebrates after making a 3-point basket during the second half of a Sweet 16 game against Oregon in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Southern California guard Drew Peterson (13) passes ahead of Oregon guard Will Richardson, left, during the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • Drew Peterson #13 of the USC Trojans reacts in the second half of their Sweet Sixteen round game against the Oregon Ducks in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

  • Drew Peterson #13 of the USC Trojans reacts to a foul call in the second half of their Sweet Sixteen round game against the Oregon Ducks in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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Well, at least the Pac-12 regular-season championship is put to bed.

USC broke the virtual tie with Oregon and, for the second time this season, broke everything else the Ducks had planned.

This 82-68 win will be better-known as the ramp to the regional finals for the Trojans, who will see undefeated Gonzaga at the top of it Tuesday night..

It came atop the 72-58 win over the Ducks in Galen Center on Feb. 22, one in which the Trojans led 15-0 and by 21 at the half without Isaiah Mobley. This one was nearly as routine, although the no-quit Ducks hassled USC with their pressure defense in the second half and actually made USC coach Andy Enfield call a time out under duress.

Although Isaiah White and Tahj Eaddy pushed the Trojans ahead in the first half with their shooting, the two signature moments came from the Mobley family.

Isaiah took an inbounds pass against Oregon’s press and sauntered 70 feet for a reverse dunk. Evan, who had been a sedate presence until then, took advantage of a defensive gamble and tickled all the seismographs in the Midwest with a two-hand jam, one that he will replicate on a weekly basis, at least, for some lottery-bound NBA franchise next season.

But the Trojans really won with a zone defense that is becoming Enfield’s weapon of choice. With 6-foot-8 Drew Peterson on the point and with the Mobleys standing back there like library lions, Oregon was flummoxed enough to shoot 30 percent in the first half.

It was leading 10-9 when USC went into the zone and got a bucket on the first possession against it. The Trojans then scored 12 of the next 14 points, over a span of 4:05, and the Ducks missed seven consecutive shots. In the half, Oregon missed six of 10 layups in this claustrophobia-inducing setting, and because the Trojans were stroking their 3-pointers so consistently, the Ducks couldn’t find the speed game they needed.

It’s the type of zone that makes USC look so futuristic. The basketball authorities haven’t made the court any wider over the years, so when folks like Eaddy and Peterson and Isaiah White are sprinting out to hassle the shooters. That’s how you force so many offensive shoes to land on the sideline, a 21st-century type of turnover that comes from such wide spacing.

“The energy of March Madness and the crowd,” explained White, the transfer from Utah Valley.  “We know what’s at stake every time we come out on the floor.”

So far White and the other shooters have prevented the Trojans’ foul shooting maladies from catching up. And if the Trojans keep winning games by an average margin of 21 points, their immunity will hold.

As usual, USC opened with man-to-man defense, which is Enfield’s usual preference. He also knew Plan B wouldn’t be far away.

“They have five forwards and guards, and we have two bigs in the game,” Enfield said. “I really don’t think we can guard them man-to-man, because all five of them can shoot the ball from outside. We don’t want to bring our bigs away from the basket.  It’s hard to chase those guys all over the perimeter and we didn’t want to switch all of their ball screens, so we were able to get out on those shooters and still be strong inside. Then we just rotated our wings as we went along.”

Zones often dominate the tournament, as anyone who has played Syracuse in March can testify. Teams have little time to prepare for the ball movement that’s demanded, and they can’t really replicate what it looks like in real life.

“We probably played man-to-man 90 percent of the time during the season,” Enfield said. “But in the tournament we’ve played, we’ve played three similar teams. We went to the zone out of necessity against all their shooters.. I don’t like going small too often, and our man-to-man has been terrific most of the year. It’s basically because of the matchups we’ve had.

“We didn’t practice it for maybe a month before the tournament. Now we’re got better and better because we’ve played it so much.”

Drake, Kansas and Oregon have shot 32.1 percent, or missed 67.9 percent, in these tournament losses to USC. Which brings us to the creature at the top of the ramp.

Gonzaga shot 49 percent in its second round win over Wisconsin. That was their worst — repeat, worst — shooting performance of its undefeated season.

On Tuesday, Gonzaga’s year-long Hot Zone intersects with a hot zone. Only one can escape.

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Whicker: Against USC’s Evan Mobley, Drake couldn’t find a lane to stay in

Paint removal is not the most fun aspect of spring cleaning. In that sense, USC and Galen Center are fortunate.

They don’t need a heat gun or sandpaper. They don’t even have to wander through the forbidding aisles of your favorite big-box store, in search of a remedy.

They have Evan Mobley.

They will not have him long, but they’ve known that all season. On Saturday, the freshman vaporized the lane and took away Darnell Brodie, who goes 6-foot-10, 270. Mobley stripped away the paint so effortlessly that his fellow Trojans joined in, and eventually Drake was reduced to long-range bombing, which worked in the first half of this NCAA tournament first round game but dissipated in the second.

USC wound up handling the tricky 6 vs. 11 matchup better than most, winning 72-56, and will graduate to a matchup with Kansas on Monday.

Brodie, a transfer from Seton Hall, missed 10 of 13 shots, and most of those misses were persuaded by either Evan or his brother Isaiah or Chevez Goodwin. Only 16 of Drake’s 56 points came in the lane, and only 12 of Drake’s 20 baskets came from someone other than Joseph Yesufu, who had 18 in the first half but was 2-for-10 in the second.

At one point the Bulldogs clunked 22 of 24 attempts, including nine of nine 3-pointers. But Mobley established the theme.

The obvious game plan is to nudge him into foul trouble, which is usually accomplished through head and ball fakes. Mobley has learned to keep his feet on the ground but even when he doesn’t, he is able to land without violating anyone’s airspace, and he never compromises his wingspan.

He is a “big” who plays big, in other words, and that is not an everyday sight in modern college basketball.

“He’s improved every week,” said coach Andy Enfield. “He has guarded physical bigs, athletic bigs, bigs with a lot of skill. And he’s able to put pressure on them offensively too.”

Mobley has played 1,020 minutes this season. He has committed only 53 fouls. The list of post defenders who have more blocks (90) and assists (76) than fouls is not a long one.

“In the college game, there are a lot more details on defense,” Mobley said. “I just try to use what the coaches teach me. I have a tendency to get jumpy at times. If I stay down I can still contest the shot if not block it.”

Five USC players combined for seven blocks, which doesn’t account for all the shots influenced, redirected or simply discouraged. One of those blocks came in the final minute from Joshua Morgan, the transfer from Long Beach State, and might have been Enfield’s way of reminding people that he has more paint-removal tools after Mobley gets away.

Max Agbonkpolo, the 6-foot-8 sophomore from Santa Margarita, is known as a potential scorer. He couldn’t resist the reject-a-thon either. He went high to try to block one dunk, although he was whistled for a foul.

“I thought he was outstanding, especially in our zone,” Enfield said. “He was very active. He’s got long arms and a great first-step. When we went to zone, he was in the game for a reason.”

As Enfield mentioned, it was reasonable to expect Drake to laugh now, cry later, due to its Thursday night First Four win over Wichita State. The Bulldogs had one night of recovery, and USC’s previous game was a Pac-12 tournament loss to Colorado eight days prior.

The game also demonstrated how USC can prosper if even one secondary scorer shows up. In this game it was Drew Peterson, who got to the hoop against Drake’s smaller guards and scored 14 on 5-of-10 shooting.

And it was another case of the Trojans overcoming their own free-throwing, which, in this game, was 8-for-15.

“It’s frustrating when good free-throw shooters miss,” Enfield said, “but we’re actually pretty good except for a couple of guys (Isaiah Mobley and Chevez Goodwin), and they’re improving.

“Tonight Evan was 2-for-4. But I wasn’t going to take him out.”

Kansas, which finally shook off Eastern Washington’s challenge, will be a tougher project. David McCormick is a 6-foot-10, 265-pound strongman who scored 22 on Eastern Washington.

But the Jayhawks have been plagued by COVID-19 in the short term and an investigation into what NCAA officials called “egregious” recruiting crimes in the long term. They haven’t lived up to their brand this season, and they gave up 35 points to EWU center Tanner Groves on Saturday.

A win would give USC a Final 16 appearance. It hasn’t done that in 14 years. The older the paint, the harder the scrape.

 

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Whicker: USC’s defense crushes UCLA’s hopes of surviving shorthanded

  • Head coach Mick Cronin talks with Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins looks toward the score board against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. USC Trojans won 66-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Ethan Anderson #20 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins yells toward an official in the second half of a NCAA basketball game against the USC Trojans at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tyger Campbell #10 sits on the bench as head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins yells toward an official in the second half of a NCAA basketball game against the USC Trojans at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans looks on against the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the loose ball against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins scrambles for the loose ball against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans scramble for the loose ball against Jules Bernard #1 and teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins sits on the bench against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the loose ball against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans looks on against the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans shoots against Mac Etienne #12 and teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans shoots against Mac Etienne #12 and teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins passes against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Chevez Goodwin #1 reacts along with teammate Isaiah Mobley #3 of the USC Trojans against the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Kenneth Nwuba #14 of the UCLA Bruins drives tot the basket against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • USC Trojans looks on wearing masks due to the Coronavirus Pandemic against the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins shoots over Drew Peterson #13 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins reacts against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Isaiah Mobley #3 of the USC Trojans fights for the rebound against Kenneth Nwuba #14 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Noah Baumann #30 of the USC Trojans takes a last second three point attempt against the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Kenneth Nwuba #14 of the UCLA Bruins drives tot the basket against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Isaiah Mobley #3 of the USC Trojans shoots against Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the rebound against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the rebound against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the rebound against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans reacts after a foul call in the first half of a NCAA basketball game against the UCLA Bruins at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins drives to he basket against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins drives to he basket against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins reacts against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

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Before Bill Walton’s consciousness even began to stream Saturday night, UCLA grimly announced two members of their sitting lineup.

Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, the Bruins’ two bigs, were out. That’s 40.7 minutes, 17.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.

The Bruins would not use that as an excuse. More important was USC’s refusal to use it as a hall pass.

The Trojans took those two holes in the Bruins’ lineup and planted their feet deep inside them. The result was a suspense-free, 64-48 whipping that allowed USC to tie UCLA for first place in the Pac-12.

USC’s businesslike nature was most evident on defense. UCLA missed 16 of 19 3-point attempts and shot 34 percent overall. Only 11 of UCLA’s baskets were assisted, which means the longer, more animated Trojans cut off the usual lanes that start up the Bruins’ offense.

Point guard Tyger Campbell had about as much influence as Riley and Hill. He went for 10 and found his driving paths barricaded. Campbell, Jules Bernard, Johnny Juzang and Jaime Maquez combined to shoot 13 for 45. In fact, backup center Micawber (Mac) Etienne was UCLA’s best player, with eight points in 27 minutes.

On the other end, Campbell & Co. could do nothing with guards Ethan Anderson and Tahj Eaddy, who combined to hit eight of their 15 three-point attempts.

“They’re a top 15 team defensively, according to some of the metrics,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “They have a lot of creativity, a lot of multiple-position players. When they spread the floor with four guards, it’s really hard to guard them.

“With Campbell, we just tried to put some length on him. We thought that was a big key to challenge his shots. He didn’t score huge for them tonight.”

USC’s superiority at the rim made UCLA miss nine of 13 layups, and the Bruins led for only two minutes and three seconds, and averaged just .787 points per possession. UCLA became the fifth of the past nine USC opponents to shoot below 40 percent.

The shortfall forced the Bruins to play zone, a subversive idea in Coach Mick Cronin’s world. Enfield said that it made the Trojans stop and think, “because they never played zone and we haven’t practiced it,” but they looked comfortable in getting the ball inside to Evan Mobley or Isaiah Mobley and then preparing well to shoot when it came back out.

The Mobleys got 14 points and 10 field-goal attempts between them. Evan will be a high first-round pick in next year’s NBA draft but, like Onyeka Ogonkwu last year, he isn’t always the centerpiece of the offense. Instead, he and his brother snapped up 20 rebounds.

On nights like this, USC looks like a stealth candidate to stir up some dust in the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans are 15-3 now.

“I remember when we found out we were picked sixth in the conference,” Eaddy said. “We said, ‘What? There’s no way.’”

“I kept repeating the names of all the transfers that were coming in,” Anderson said, referring to Eaddy, Chevez Goodwin, Noah Baumann, Isaiah White and Drew Peterson. “Everybody knew Evan Mobley was coming, but I kept telling people we had more coming than that. I’m glad they’ve been able to show what they can do. It’s been absolutely excellent.”

“We’ve done well but we’ve got nine games to go,” Enfield said, wary of slippage.

This team could go a long way, if it’s really true that defense travels.

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USC’s defense crushes UCLA’s hopes of surviving shorthanded

  • Head coach Mick Cronin talks with Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins looks toward the score board against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. USC Trojans won 66-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Ethan Anderson #20 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins yells toward an official in the second half of a NCAA basketball game against the USC Trojans at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tyger Campbell #10 sits on the bench as head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins yells toward an official in the second half of a NCAA basketball game against the USC Trojans at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans looks on against the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the loose ball against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins scrambles for the loose ball against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans looks on against the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins sits on the bench against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the loose ball against the USC Trojans in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Tyger Campbell #10 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans scramble for the loose ball against Jules Bernard #1 and teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans shoots against Mac Etienne #12 and teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans shoots against Mac Etienne #12 and teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins passes against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Chevez Goodwin #1 reacts along with teammate Isaiah Mobley #3 of the USC Trojans against the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Kenneth Nwuba #14 of the UCLA Bruins drives tot the basket against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • USC Trojans looks on wearing masks due to the Coronavirus Pandemic against the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins shoots over Drew Peterson #13 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins reacts against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Isaiah Mobley #3 of the USC Trojans fights for the rebound against Kenneth Nwuba #14 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins drives to the basket against Isaiah Mobley #3 and teammate Tahj Eaddy #2 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Noah Baumann #30 of the USC Trojans takes a last second three point attempt against the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Kenneth Nwuba #14 of the UCLA Bruins drives tot the basket against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Isaiah Mobley #3 of the USC Trojans shoots against Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the rebound against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the rebound against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jules Bernard #1 of the UCLA Bruins fights for the rebound against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans reacts after a foul call in the first half of a NCAA basketball game against the UCLA Bruins at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins drives to he basket against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. #4 of the UCLA Bruins drives to he basket against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Mac Etienne #12 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

  • Head coach Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins reacts against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 6, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

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Before Bill Walton’s consciousness even began to stream Saturday night, UCLA grimly announced two members of their sitting lineup.

Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, the Bruins’ two bigs, were out. That’s 40.7 minutes, 17.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.

The Bruins would not use that an excuse. More important was USC’s refusal to use it as a hall pass.

The Trojans took those two holes in the Bruins’ lineup and planted their feet deep inside them. The result was a suspense-free, 64-48 whipping that allowed USC to tie UCLA for first place in the Pac-12.

USC’s businesslike nature was most evident on defense. UCLA missed 16 of 19 3-point attempts and shot 34 percent overall. Only 11 of UCLA’s baskets were assisted, which means the longer, more animated Trojans cut off the usual lanes that start up the Bruins’ offense.

Point guard Tyger Campbell had about as much influence as Riley and Hill. He went for 10 and found his driving paths barricaded. He, Jules Bernard, Johnny Juzang and Jaime Maquez combined to shoot 13 for 45. In fact, backup center Micawber (Mac) Etienne was UCLA’s best player, with eight points in 27 minutes.

On the other end, Campbell & Co. could do nothing with guards Ethan Anderson and Tahj Eaddy, who combined to hit eight of 15 three-pointers.

“They’re a top 15 team defensively, according to some of the metrics,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “They have a lot of creativity, a lot of multiple-position players. When they spread the floor with four guards, it’s really hard to guard them.

“With Campbell we just tried to put some length on him. We thought that was a big key to challenge his shots. He didn’t score huge for them tonight.”

USC’s superiority at the rim made UCLA miss nine of 13 layups, and the Bruins led for only two minutes and three seconds, and averaged just .787 points per possession. UCLA became the fifth of the past nine USC opponents to shoot below 40 percent.

The shortfall forced the Bruins to play zone, a subversive idea in coach Mick Cronin’s world.  Enfield said that it made the Trojans stop and think, “because they never played zone and we haven’t practiced it,” but they looked comfortable in getting the ball inside to Evan Mobley or Isaiah Mobley and then preparing well to shoot when it came back out.

The Mobleys got 14 points and 10 field goal attempts between them. Evan will be a high first-round pick in next year’s NBA draft but, like Onyeka Ogonkwu last year, he isn’t always the centerpiece of the offense. Instead, he and his brother snapped up 20 rebounds.

On nights like this USC looks like a stealth candidate to stir up some dust in the NCAA tournament. The Trojans are 15-3 now.

“I remember when we found out we were picked sixth in the conference,” Eaddy said. “We said, ‘What? There’s no way.’”

“I kept repeating the names of all the transfers that were coming in,” Anderson said, referring to Eaddy, Chevez Goodwin, Noah Baumann, Isaiah White and Drew Peterson. “Everybody knew Evan Mobley was coming, but I kept telling people we had more coming than that. I’m glad they’ve been able to show what they can do. It’s been absolutely excellent.”

“We’ve done well but we’ve got nine games to go,” Enfield said, wary of slippage. This team could go a long way, if it’s really true that defense travels.

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USC thwarts UC Riverside’s upset bid in OT

Having lost several scheduled games to COVID-19 restrictions, USC booked a replacement game against UC Riverside for Tuesday night at the Galen Center, a mid-week game sandwiched between Pac-12 opponents.

The Trojans got a little more than they likely expected from the Highlanders and needed a big overtime period from Drew Peterson to complement nice efforts from brothers Evan and Isaiah Mobley and close out a 67-62 victory.

UCR used a 16-0 run in the first half to open a five-point lead at halftime and the Big West Conference visitors had a chance to win the game in regulation before 7-foot freshman Evan Mobley blocked Zyan Pullin’s shot at the buzzer. It was one of six blocks for Mobley, who boasts a 7-5 wingspan.

Evan Mobley’s dunk with 4:05 left in the extra session gave the Trojans (9-2) the lead for good but they never created much distance from the Highlanders (4-3). USC had a one-point lead when Peterson scored three-point plays on back-to-back possessions, a jumper and a free throw followed by an inside basket and free throw that extended the margin to 61-56 with 2:35 left.

Dominick Pickett came back with a 3-pointer for UCR 19 seconds later, but Evan Mobley sank a pair of free throws, Peterson hit a jumper and the Trojans had enough room to hold on.

Evan Mobley scored 20 points (on 8-for-12 shooting) and had 11 rebounds to go with his defensive contributions, and Isaiah Mobley finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Trojans. Peterson had 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Tahj Eaddy added 10 points, four rebounds and two steals.

UCR had five players score in double digits: Pickett (16), Cameron Flynn (12) and Jock Perry, Pullin and Arinze Chidom 10 each.

“UC Riverside played well defensively, and we had a slow start that gave them some confidence,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “It was a good win considering we were 3 for 21 from the 3-point line.

“We’ve had trouble there recently. I think we’re 6 for 43 the last few games, and a lot of those shots were wide open. We weren’t forcing anything; we just didn’t make many.”

In overtime, the Trojans used their height advantage to post up the 6-8 Peterson for good looks.

“We’re happy to get a win,” Peterson said. “There are no free wins these days. Every win you get is gritty.”

Especially when the schedule is in a constant state of flux. That has been a concern for most Division I teams. The Trojans booked the game between conference games, which was a challenge considering the unexpected depth of the Pac-12 this season. Tuseday’s game was the first of six scheduled during a 12-day period.

“UC Riverside was a tough and local team and it was a cram session for us to be ready,” Enfield said.

“They kind of dared us to take outside shots, and were forcing us to the left side, which we didn’t expect,” Isaiah Mobley said. “We just had to start executing the way we know how. I really think this is a championship team, and winning games like this shows what we can do.”

USC led 14-9 when UCR went on its 16-0 run, Flynn hitting three 3-pointers and Wil Tattersall capping the run with one of his own with 7:56 left before halftime.

UCR led 32-27 at halftime. USC’s 52-47 lead in the second half with 3:10 left was the largest lead for either team prior to overtime.

UCR outscored USC 36-9 from beyond the arc but was just 2 for 9 from the free-throw line compared to the Trojans’ 16-for-22 mark. Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field. USC outrebounded UCR, 47-37.

WHO TO BELIEVE?

USC entered the game 5-0 all-time against UC Riverside, winning the last meeting, 70-26, on Dec. 15, 2012. USC was forced to vacate its 2008 victory against the Highlanders due to NCAA penalties. But that’s according to the Trojans’ media guide.

The Highlanders’ media guide gives UC Riverside credit for wins against USC on Feb. 3, 1967 and Nov. 30, 1979 and puts the rivalry at 6-2 in favor of the Trojans.

New services contributed to this story.

UP NEXT

UC Riverside faces Cal Poly on the road for back-to-back Big West games on Friday and Saturday.

USC resumes Pac-12 play when it welcomes Washington to town on Thursday.

The Trojans came back from 11 points down to get the W.

Catch all the highlights from tonight’s game! ⤵pic.twitter.com/2usKYfZVLI

— USC Men’s Basketball (@USC_Hoops) January 13, 2021

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USC’s comeback falls short against Oregon in double OT

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chandler Lawson #13 of the Oregon Ducks drives to the basket on Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • Southern California’s Nick Rakocevic, left, shots over Oregon’s Shakur Juiston during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

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  • Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, center, goes up for a shot between Southern California’s Max Agbonkpolo, left, and Isaiah Mobley, right, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • Oregon’s Chris Duarte, right, steals the ball from Southern California’s Daniel Utomi, back, and Elijah Weaver during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks dunks the ball during the first half against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks steals the ball from Daniel Utomi #4 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Head coach Andy Enfeld of the USC Trojans yells out to his team during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • Oregon’s Shakur Juiston, center, goes up for a shot against Southern California’s Onyeka Okongwu, left, Ethan Anderson and Isaiah Mobley, right, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23 : (L-R) C.J. Walker #14 of the Oregon Ducks, defends against Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans, as Payton Pritchard #3 closes in during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Max Agbonkpolo #23 of the USC Trojans blocks the shot of Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • Southern California’s Onyeka Okongwu, left, and Ethan Anderson, right, battle Oregon’s Anthony Mathis, center, for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • Oregon head basketball coach Dana Altman calls to his team during the second half of an NCAA basketball game in against Southern California Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks drives to the basket on Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • Oregon’s C.J. Walker, right, dunks the ball past Southern California’s Isaiah Mobley, left, during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks blocks the shot of Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans asC.J. Walker #14 defends during the second overtime at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-68. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks hits a shot over Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans shot late in the second overtime at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-68 in two overtimes (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks reacts after hitting a shot late in the second overtime against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-68 in two overtimes (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks reacts after hitting a shot late in the second overtime against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-68 in two overtimes (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • Southern California’s Onyeka Okongwu dunks the ball, right, ahead of Oregon’s Shakur Juiston during the second half of an NCAA basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • USC’s Ethan Anderson, left, and Jonah Mathews, right, battle Oregon’s Chris Duarte for the ball during the second half of Thursday’s key Pac-12 game in Eugene, Ore. Oregon won 79-70 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • Southern California head basketball coach Andy Enfield, left, yells at Onyeka Okongwu during the second half of an NCAA basketball game against Oregon in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans brings the ball up the court on Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks during the second half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket on Will Richardson #0 of the Oregon Ducks during the second half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Head coach Dana Altman of the Oregon Ducks speaks with an official during the second half against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Payton Pritchard #3 of the Oregon Ducks reacts after hitting a shot during the second half against the USC Trojans at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans dunks the ball during the second half against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Ethan Anderson #20 of the USC Trojans reacts after the Oregon Ducks scored during the second half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans and Chandler Lawson #13 of the Oregon Ducks battle for a rebound during the second half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

  • EUGENE, OREGON – JANUARY 23: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks drives to the basket on Max Agbonkpolo #23 of the USC Trojans during the first half at Matthew Knight Arena on January 23, 2020 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 79-70. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

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EUGENE, Ore. — Chris Duarte had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Payton Pritchard reached a Pac-12 milestone for career points, rebounds and assists, and No. 12 Oregon outlasted USC 79-70 in double overtime in a battle between two teams near the top of the conference standings on Thursday night.

With 24 points and seven assists, Pritchard became the first player in the Pac-12 to reach 1,500 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds. When the achievement was noted on the video scoreboard at Matthew Knight Arena in the second half, the crowd gave the senior guard a standing ovation.

Pritchard is just the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 points and 600 assists, joining Oregon State’s Gary Payton, Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and UCLA’s Tyus Edney.

Duarte also had eight steals, one shy of the school record.

Oregon (16-4, 5-2) led by 11 in the second half but USC rallied with a 17-2 run to take a 62-58 lead, capped by Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:24 left.

C.J. Walker and Pritchard hit consecutive layups to tie it at 62 and send the game to overtime.

Pritchard’s 3-pointer in the first extra period gave the Ducks a 65-64 lead, but Ethan Anderson’s layup and free throw put the Trojans back ahead by two. Duarte made free throws for the Ducks to tie it again, and Mathews and Pritchard both missed shots down the stretch.

Duarte and Pritchard each made free throws that gave Oregon a four-point advantage to open the second overtime. Duarte’s 3-pointer put the Ducks up 74-68, and USC couldn’t catch up.

Freshman Onyeka Okongwu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Trojans (15-4, 4-2).

Oregon was coming off a 64-61 overtime win at Washington last weekend. The Ducks overcame a 16-point deficit and won that game on Pritchard’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. But Oregon lost to Washington State 72-61 last Thursday, resulting in a fall from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

USC had won nine of its last 10 games and three straight, including last Saturday’s 82-78 overtime victory against Stanford. The Trojans came back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Cardinal.

The Ducks built an early 15-7 lead after Duarte’s fast-break layup and 3-pointer. Oregon stayed in front, but USC closed to 24-23 on Daniel Utomi’s jumper.

The teams went to the break with Oregon ahead 32-30. Utomi led all scorers with 10 points.

Okongwu’s layup for USC tied it at 32 to start the second half but the Ducks responded with a 10-0 run, capped by Duarte’s jumper off a dish from Pritchard. Okongwu’s dunk ended the Trojans’ scoring drought.

Okongwu made consecutive baskets to pull USC to 56-53, and Matthews tied it with a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 Trojans run. Pritchard answered with a layup for Oregon.

Freshman forward Chandler Lawson’s layup stretched the Ducks’ lead to 49-38 midway through the second half.

Lawson made his first start for the Ducks after he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Washington. Oregon was without center N’Faly Dante, who was questionable for the game after hurting his knee against the Huskies.

Pritchard was one of just two Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, joining Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.

NOTES

The Trojans started 4-1 in conference play for the first time since 2016. USC went 5-0 to open conference play in 2002. … Pritchard is closing in on Oregon’s career record of 614 assists held by Kenya Wilkins. … Pritchard has won 96 games as a Ducks player, one shy of Oregon’s career leader, Johnathan Lloyd.

UP NEXT

USC visits Oregon State on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Oregon hosts UCLA on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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Onyeka Okongwu’s record-tying debut leads USC to season-opening win

  • USC’s Daniel Utomi, right, drives to the basket against Florida A&M’s DJ Jones during the second half of Tuesday’s season opener at the Galen Center. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans fights for the ball with Bryce Moragne #23 of the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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  • Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Nasir Core #5 of the Florida A&M Rattlers dives fro the loose ball against USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quinton Adlesh #10 of the USC Trojans fights for the loose ball against Florida A&M Rattlers Alan g with teammate Jonah Mathews in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Bryce Moragne #23 of the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Bryce Moragne #23 of the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Robert McCullum of the Florida A&M Rattlers against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans rebounds against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans fights for the loos ball against Evins Desir #34 of the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans smiles against Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans slam-dunks against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans shoots against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Ethan Anderson #20 of the USC Trojans drive to the basket against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Ethan Anderson #20 of the USC Trojans trips over Kamron Reaves #2 of the Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Florida A&M Rattlers in the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Onyeka Okongwu #21 of the USC Trojans fights for the loose ball against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans drives tot the basket against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Nasir Core #5 of the Florida A&M Rattlers dives for the loose ball against Isaiah Mobley #15 of the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Daniel Utomi #4 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Elijah Weaver #3 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Andy Enfield of the USC Trojans against Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • USC Trojans song girls perform in the second half of a NCAA basketball game between the USC Trojans and the Florida A&M Rattlers at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Nick Rakocevic #31 of the USC Trojans drives to the basket against the Florida A&M Rattlers in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Robert McCullum of the Florida A&M Rattlers against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • USC Trojans song girls perform in the second half of a NCAA basketball game between the USC Trojans and the Florida A&M Rattlers at the Galen Center on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. USC Trojans won 77-48. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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LOS ANGELES — Center Onyeka Okongwu arrived at USC with a lot of hype; a five-star recruit, a three-time state champ at Chino Hills High.

In his first game as a Trojan, Okongwu showed why, coming two blocked shots shy of a triple-double to lead the USC men’s basketball team to a 77-48 victory over Florida A&M in the season opener at the Galen Center.

Okongwu finished with a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds. His eight blocks tied a school record, set three previous times, and led a larger USC effort that limited the Rattlers to 32 points in the paint.

“That was not my objective for the night. I just wanted to go out and help my team win,” Okongwu said of the record. “But it’s an extreme milestone, but I’m happy with the W tonight.”

The freshman center left the game with 6:56 to play, drawing a nice round of applause as he made his way to the bench to finish the game as a spectator.

Such a performance might not seem important just looking at the final score, but it was necessary given how the game started.

November basketball was in full effect in the first half, with both teams struggling to shoot the ball. USC started the game 3 for 13 from the floor, and a 6-0 FAMU run put the Trojans in a 10-6 hole.

“The first half, the ball was sticking, stopping,” head coach Andy Enfield said. “Too many turnovers, not enough assists. We missed a lot of easy buckets around the paint.”

Senior guard Jonah Matthews, who didn’t start the first half due to being late to classes, broke the streak with a three-point play. A couple of Elijah Weaver baskets put USC back in the lead.

But overall USC couldn’t find the basket in the first half. The Trojans made a third of their 33 attempts and went 1 for 8 from 3-point range and 1 for 9 from the free-throw line.

Okongwu described it as “first-game jitters.” His coach was a little more harsh about the performance, which included 17 turnovers by the time the night was over.

“We were our own worst enemy in the first half, but I thought the second half our guys came together and played like a team,” Enfield said.

The only one who didn’t struggle from the field was Okongwu. The center made his first three shots, a put-back dunk four minutes in jolting the sparsely-populated Galen Center to life.

He finished the half a basket short of a double-double, which he got on the first possession after halftime as the Trojans ran a play to get Okongwu the ball in the post.

That gave way to a stronger offensive half for USC, as the Trojans opened with a 25-10 run, shot 19 for 33 from the floor and outscored FAMU by 28 after the intermission.

Freshman forward Isaiah Mobley finished the game with 17 points and seven rebounds, while guard Ethan Anderson added seven assists, two of them on alley-oops to Okongwu.

After the game Mobley, an AAU teammate of Okongwu’s for three seasons, joked he was coming for the block record himself next time around, when USC hosts Portland on Friday.

“We’re extremely competitive, so next time I’m going to try get nine,” Mobley said.

But for the night it was Okongwu making room for himself atop the record book, in his first collegiate game, too.

USC’s freshmen shined as the Trojans posted a big win in their season opener.

Peep the highlights! 👀pic.twitter.com/QJnXKHyM5N

— USC Men’s Basketball (@USC_Hoops) November 6, 2019

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USC’s freshmen show promise in exhibition victory over Villanova

LOS ANGELES — It was only an exhibition, two-and-a-half weeks before the games start to count. But it was hard for USC to not feel encouraged by its 72-61 victory over Villanova on Friday night at the Galen Center.

Against a likely top-10 team, USC just wanted to work on its execution and show signs of improvement as it worked through the growing pains of a roster full of freshmen and transfers. The Trojans made significant strides from the first half to the second and came away with a win as the cherry-on-top confidence boost heading into the season.

“I thought it was a terrific early basketball game. Even though it didn’t count on your record, you couldn’t tell by how the two teams were playing,” USC head coach Andy Enfield said. “It gives our players confidence that we can compete against a physical Big East team like Villanova that’s been so successful.”

USC played five members of its six-man freshman class on Friday (the sixth, Drake London, is a little busy with the football team). But it was the two five-star recruits, center Onyeka Okongwu and forward Isaiah Mobley, who started for the Trojans against Villanova.

It was clear in the first half that USC was still trying to figure out how to incorporate Okongwu and Mobley on offense. The ball moved around the perimeter without landing in either’s hands.

A free throw from Okongwu with seven minutes left in the first half represented the only scoring either did in the first 20 minutes. Mobley didn’t take a shot until he missed a turnaround jumper with 5:50 left before halftime, and Okongwu’s only attempt from the field was a failed 3-pointer three minutes later.

“The first half was choppy,” Enfield said, noting USC’s 11-man rotation in the period. “Some of that choppiness on offense was my fault because it’s hard for some guys to get into a flow.”

Okongwu was much more assertive in the second half. The former Chino Hills High star made a jump hook on the opening possession of the second half and was active on the offensive glass to get himself some extra opportunities on offense. He finished the game 6 for 12 from the field with a team-high 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“In the second half, he was dominant for a 5- to 6-minute stretch,” said Enfield, who hopes this group can spark a turnaround for a program that went 16-17 last season. “He’s learning how to play college defense.”

Mobley was less active in the second half but finally broke through with 11 minutes left, posting up to get the space he needed for a soft hook shot.

The other freshman who got extended run on Friday was guard Ethan Anderson. The former Fairfax High standout was the second man off the bench and provided USC’s best highlight of the first half when he drove past his man to the left and threw down a dunk.

But more importantly, Anderson proved that he can be a valuable playmaker, showing some creativity with his passes.

In the first half, he caught a rebound and skied it ahead to Nick Rakocevic, who was fouled in transition. Then Anderson found Quinton Adlesh cutting to the rim and bounced the ball to him, picking up a hockey assist as Adlesh swung it to Daniel Utomi in the corner for one of his four first-half 3-pointers.

Utomi, a graduate transfer from Akron, matched Okongwu with 15 points, all on 3-pointers.

“Coach Enfield has a great offense for all of his players,” Utomi said. “I feel like he puts every single one of us in great positions.”

In the second half, Anderson, who finished with nine points five assists, lobbed a pass to Mobley, who tapped it in for a bucket.

Anderson had three assists and five points during a 16-5 second-half run that helped the Trojans take control of the game.

“He’s different,” senior Jonah Matthews said of Anderson. “He has it all; the athleticism, the handles, the defense, the guard play, the IQ. There’s nothing really missing from there.”

Big win over the Cats in our exhibition!

👀 all the highlights 💥pic.twitter.com/iHSi1724cy

— USC Men’s Basketball (@USC_Hoops) October 19, 2019

USC 64, Villanova 56 with 2:31 to go

Trojans looking to close out the Cats! pic.twitter.com/uD0c3CG95s

— USC Men’s Basketball (@USC_Hoops) October 19, 2019

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Bennie Boatwright’s career night not enough for USC in OT loss at Oregon State

  • Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson, Jr. dribbles past USC’s Jonah Mathews during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

  • USC’s Bennie Boatwright shoots in front of Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson Jr. during overtime in an NCAA college basketball game in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. Oregon State won 79-74. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

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  • USC’s Bennie Boatwright brings the ball up the court during the first half of Thursday’s Pac-12 game against Oregon State in Corvallis. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

  • Oregon State’s Alfred Hollins shoots next to Southern California’s Jonah Mathews during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

  • USC’s Derryck Thornton defends against Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

  • Oregon State’s Alfred Hollins leaps while defending USC’s Kevin Porter Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

  • Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson Jr. weaves through USC’s Jonah Mathews, left, and Kevin Porter Jr. during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. Oregon State won 79-74 in overtime. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

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CORVALLIS, Ore. — On a night of career performances, Stephen Thompson Jr. and Oregon State got the better of Bennie Boatwright and USC.

Thompson Jr. scored a career-high 34 points with five 3-pointers and 10 rebounds as Oregon State, playing without leading scorer and rebounder Tres Tinkle, outlasted USC 79-74 in overtime on Thursday night.

Boatwright had a career-high 37 points with four 3-pointers and eight rebounds for USC (9-7, 2-1) and Jonah Mathews added 13 points off the bench for the Trojans.

In overtime, Boatwright sank a pull-up jumper with 1:30 left to put the Trojans up 74-72. Ethan Thompson responded with a 3-pointer on the Beavers’ next possession.

Boatwright missed a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left, and the Trojans were forced to foul. Stephen Thompson Jr. made one of two, and the Beavers led 76-74.

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Freshman Kevin Porter Jr., who had missed all but a few minutes of the past few months with a thigh bruise, attacked the rim for USC, but Kylor Kelley rejected his shot. Stephen Thompson Jr. gathered the rebound, was fouled, and made both free throws this time.

“Both teams played hard, both played pretty well and they made a big shot. That was the difference in the game,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.

Ethan Thompson added 13 points and Gligorije Rakocevic had 10 points for the Beavers (10-4, 2-0 Pac-12), who found a way to win despite the absence of Tinkle (20.5 points, 8.6 rebounds per game).

“What do you say about Stevie? Just stepping up as a senior and willing our team to victory. Everybody else fed off of him,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “We showed a lot of guts and a lot of grit.”

Oregon State went on an 18-0 run in the first half, holding the Trojans scoreless for nearly six minutes, to take a 32-25 lead with 5:33 before the break.

The Beavers went to halftime up 36-31.

USC was ahead 66-64 and had the ball with a minute left in regulation, but Nick Rakocevic’s jumper was blocked by Kelley. On the Beavers’ next possession, Warren Washington’s shot was blocked by Rakocevic, but Ethan Thompson grabbed the offensive rebound and made a lay-in.

Boatwright missed a 3-point attempt from the top of the key on the last possession of regulation.

“We have depth on our team. When one guy goes down, we can make it up in different ways,” OSU freshman point guard Antoine Vernon said.

BIG PICTURE

USC: Rakocevic, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week after averaging 25 points and nine rebounds in home wins over Cal and Stanford, was held to just six points and seven rebounds. … The Trojans had won their last six games against the Beavers, including three last season. … Boatwright’s point total was the most by a USC player since O.J. Mayo also had 37 in a 2008 game against Arizona State.

Oregon State: Kelley, who came into the game leading the nation with 3.9 blocked shots per game, had five points and seven blocks. … Tinkle’s injury opened more playing time for other players, including freshman big man Washington, who had career highs with seven points and 26 minutes.

ANKLE UPDATE

Wayne Tinkle said his son could have played Thursday, but he would have only been about 70 percent, and his ankle would have deteriorated to only 60 percent for Sunday. But with rest, the coach was counting on Oregon State’s star to play against UCLA. “We can’t make a decision for sure, but I’m banking on him playing until I hear something else. But we’ll see,” the coach said.

PLAYING TIME

Washington didn’t play a minute against Oregon last week, but on Thursday he was getting plenty of time and checking Rakocevic. Wayne Tinkle said Washington earned his playing time by working hard in practice after Christmas. “We thought we could try this big lineup at some point,” he added.

UP NEXT

USC plays at Oregon on Sunday.

Oregon State hosts UCLA on Sunday.

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USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Chimezie Metu land in second round of NBA draft

De’Anthony Melton, who was expected to be selected as high as the mid-20s in the first round of the NBA draft on Thursday night in Brooklyn, ultimately faced a longer wait.

The former USC guard was drafted midway through the second round, slipping to the Houston Rockets, who snagged him with the No. 46 overall pick.

Despite a fall into the second round, it appeared to be a promising pairing, with the analytics-minded franchise settling on Melton, a 20-year-old player who had earned favor among a variety of analytics experts over the past year due to his versatility.

During his freshman season for the Trojans in 2016-17, Melton averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocked shot. Only one other freshman (Dwyane Wade, then at Marquette) had averaged as much across all five categories since 1992-93.

Melton’s selection was followed three picks later by his former USC teammate, Chimezie Metu, the springy forward who was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the No. 49 overall pick.

They were the first USC players to be drafted since Nikola Vucevic in 2011, ending the longest drought in the program’s history. Previously, no more than five years had passed between USC’s NBA draft picks.

There had been 479 players drafted between Vucevic, the 16th overall pick in 2011, and Melton.

Melton’s draft stock was likely impacted after he missed his sophomore season with the Trojans due to a connection to the FBI’s investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball.

USC, which declared Melton ineligible a month into the season, led an internal investigation that determined Dave Elliott, a family friend, had accepted “extra benefits,” leaving Melton in potential violation of NCAA amateurism rules, a reason it opted to withhold him from games. Melton was never accused of wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors alleged in a federal complaint last September that Elliott accepted $5,000 from Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood.

Melton, who also went to Crespi High, continued to practice with the Trojans before withdrawing from school in February to enter the draft.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told reporters in Houston late Thursday that Melton’s season-long absence contributed to his slide – and to their benefit.

“He’s a guy, who if he had played, we feel pretty comfortable he would have been a top-20 pick,” Morey said. “I think he was a little out of sight, out of mind. That played into our advantage, that he was still available.”

Trojans coach Andy Enfield said in an interview earlier this month he believed Melton would have been a lottery pick had he appeared in games as a sophomore.

While versatile, Melton’s best attribute is seen as his defense. A 6-foot-3 combo guard who is able to defend points guards, as well as shooting guards, in the backcourt, his 6-8 wingspan helps him disrupt passes and opposing ball handlers. Melton’s 1.9 steals per game were second in the Pac-12 in the 2016-17 season.

As with Melton, Metu left school early to enter the draft, bypassing his senior season. He also sat out the National Invitation Tournament to end last season.

As a junior last season, Metu, a 6-10 presence who might play power forward or center in the NBA, averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocked shots per game.

The Lawndale High product was a gifted dunker for the Trojans and compiled 214 rim-rattling finishes over his three-year career.

In a statement following his selection, Enfield said, “Chimezie will have a long career in the NBA. He is a hard worker and has a great skill set for someone his size.”

The selection of Melton and Metu also marked the first time since 2009 that USC had two players drafted in the two-round draft. In 2009, both DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson were first-round picks.

Neither point guard Jordan McLaughlin nor shooting guard Elijah Stewart was drafted. The departed seniors were considered more fringe prospects, but both are expected to join Summer League teams.

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