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USC Scoop Hoops Report: FIRST PLACE USC Beats Washington 69-54

February 11, 2021
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Not sure when it happened. But it happened.  Someone at USC in the past upset the college basketball Gods one day.  The Trojan's basketball team is off to their best start since 1997 following their 69-54 win on the road sweeping the Washington Huskies on the season, improving to 16-3, 10-2. Which means, USC is still in first place, but now all alone a full game ahead of UCLA, which lost to the Washington St. Cougars,--the Trojan's next opponent on Saturday night.

Before the season started, the Trojans were picked to finish 6th in the conference race.  Now, with seven scheduled games remaining, USC is poised to win its first outright conference championship in 36 years.  Maybe this is what it will take for the curse to be broken? 

I say they're upset because no one gets to see this team play in person.  It almost feels like poetic justice for the Trojan Family, who ignores their basketball team, save for a few marquee games per year at Galen.  USC has arguably one of the top-5 players in college basketball and are streaking to post season play, and if you don’t have the PAC-12 Network, you’re missing out.  Remember that next year when you have the opportunity to get out to Galen.

At the first TV timeout, USC trailed 10-7.  But Evan Mobley already had three blocked shots, and older brother Isaiah set himself up for a double-double in the first half, just missing with 9 points and 9 rebounds; the older Mobley would finish the night with my favorite stat line from the game.  

Not only did Isaiah complete the double-double, scoring 12 points while adding 12 rebounds, but 7 of his boards were of the offensive variety.--The Huskies as a team had four total offensive rebounds.  On the night, USC brought their Windex, cleaning up a total of 41 rebounds to the Huskies 24.  Oh, and Evan?  He may have missed his first couple of shots, but he would lead the team scoring 17 points while putting on a dunk fest finishing 8-11 on the night.

After the game, Coach Enfield acknowledged his team's struggles on offense, but he also reminded the media that "Winning in this league is hard, especially on the road.--It was a good team win, anytime you win by 15."

When[Enfield] asked after the game what sets this team apart, he said, "Defensively, we're very good. I think you saw that midway through the first half into the second half. We challenged every shot, made them shoot a low percentage, and then we dominated the paint on offense. I think this team starts at the defensive end."  
To put those words into context, the Huskies shot almost 41% in the first half.  In the second half, USC held them to 34% shooting while outscoring UW in the paint 46-22. 

"You never know--With such a new team, with so many new players, we weren't really sure. That's why on the first day of training camp we made the focus defense, just like last year.--We're more talented offensively this year, we have better perimeter playmaking and shooting this year than we did last year, so we can score more points -- I think we're second in the league in scoring.--We were really good defensively -- And that was our focus from day one of training camp."

In the first half, Washington, led by Quade Green's 16 points, had 14 points but could only go 1 for 6 in the second half and was held scoreless for the last 13 minutes.   Once Quade’s shot was rendered useless, the Huskies were left with few offensive options to challenge the Trojan’s length and athleticism, and the Huskies never threatened again, showing why USC’s defense could be a handful come tournament time.  

Once the Trojans found their footing inside Alaska Airlines Arena, they used an 18-4 run toward the end of the first half over the final 4+ minutes to take a 10-point halftime lead into the locker room.

Joining the Mobley's in the double-figure scoring column was Chevez Goodwin, who had 11 points. When the Trojans needed someone to come off the bench and jumpstart their offense, it was Goodwin's turn to lead by example, dropping in 9 first-half points. 

Enfield has pointed out throughout the season how someone different will step up from game to game "Tonight it was Chevez Goodwin off the bench, who just played outstanding basketball.--Isaiah White played great, especially at the end of the first half into the second, and I thought it was a team effort," Enfield said. 

Goodwin echoed his coach's sentiments after the game, complimenting his teammates for "making the game easy." 

Goodwin may have wanted to talk about how his teammates made the game easy for him, but Enfield wanted to make sure Goodwin's play was fully appreciated for what he brings, not just on Thursday but also on every game. "It's nice to have a true low post player who can score with his back to the basket like Chevez can.-- With either hand, he's very physical, gives you great energy and he can switch on ball screens.  He can move his feet, he's quick laterally and is very tough and energetic.--He's a very tough young man and he played very well Tonight.--He's been huge for us all season, because when you go to your bench you will sometimes need to be uplifted with energy, and he's provided that on a nightly basis."

Tahj Eaddy would also chip in with 10 points and four assists, making the Trojan's lone 3-pointer; as a team, USC only shot seven times from behind the arc.

Against the Huskies, the Trojans can get away only making one 3-pointer.  But this team will have to get more from Drew Peterson, Ethan Anderson, and to a lesser extent, Noah Baumann from the perimeter every game.  Otherwise, teams will continue to pack the paint, forcing USC to shoot from the outside, thus taking away their advantage down low.

As long as the No. 20-ranked Trojans continue to win, ultimately, that's all that matters.  Saturday, USC will look to finish the road trip with a win in Pullman and complete the Apple state's sweep.

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USC Scoop Hoops Report: FIRST PLACE USC Beats Washington 69-54

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