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USC Scoop Hoops Report: The Trojans Continue Their Ascent

February 13, 2021

It may have been cold and snowy up on the Palouse; however, the Trojans are still the hottest thing in the PAC-12 conference as they return home following a road sweep of the Washington schools.

The last time USC started a season 17-3, the year was 1992, and no one on the roster was even alive yet!  But the 2020/21 Trojans are writing their own history as they continue on their quest for a conference championship trophy, one which has eluded the program since 1985.--I graduated from high school that year.

The No. 20-ranked Trojans completed the road sweep defeating Washington St. 76-65, extending their winning streak to six games, and improved to 17-3 and 11-2 in the conference, positioning themselves to move up when the polls are updated.

The Trojans find themselves positioned where they are this season mainly because of Tahj Eaddy and his ability to generate instant offense.  After the game, Coach Enfield said he[Eaddy] was "spectacular..." and the Cougars will be the first team to agree that Tahj is the guy that makes USC's offense tough to defend. "...He shot threes. He put the ball on the floor.  He pulled up for mid range and he was able to get to the rim. He controlled the game and he did what he wanted. That was very impressive.--He's a talented young man that doesn't get sped up and is very solid with his offensive game."

The last time these two teams met, Eaddy, had a big game, so Coach Enfield had a feeling he would have another. "I told coach [Chris] Capko before the game, I said, 'Tahj Eaddy is going to play great tonight.' I just had a feeling. I didn't expect it to be 29 points."  Tahj the grad-transfer from Santa Clara led the Trojans with 29 points, just one point shy of tying his career-high.

I'm sure Eaddy wants to play Wazzu every night; he had 11 points in the game's first few minutes of action and would finish the half with 18 points.  Eaddy is second on the team behind Eban Mobley with a 12.6 scoring average, and second on the team with 50 assists on the season.  Before Saturday's contest, Eaddy led USC with 32 three-point baskets made and connected at 35% from beyond the arc; he added two more of each to his seasonal stat column.

The other night against the Huskies, it was Chevez Goodwin who stepped up to give the Trojans an offensive spark.  And even though they play different positions, and one is a starter, it was nice to see Eaddy bounce back from an off-night that he had against the Huskies. Postgame Enfield added,"He didn't have a very good game against Washington, he struggled a little with his shooting and his offense, so I just had this feeling. He shot the ball terrifically in shootaround this morning, and this is a shooter's gym. I always like coming here, for some reason we always shoot the ball well here, so I just had a feeling," Enfield continued. "My feelings aren't always right, now -- I just got lucky on this one -- but Tahj had a really good focus tonight and just played great basketball."

After the game, Eaddy, like Goodwin from the game before, gave all of his teammates credit. "It was gritty. We had to find a way to get it done.--They wanted to fight until the end. We made free throws and we was able to keep them at bay. It was a great team win.--Everyone contributed.--We gotta keep it going!"

It wasn't only Eaddy's night to shine on the national stage.  Evan Mobley put together another highlight reel on Saturday while adding 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks, as he and Eaddy were the only Trojans to score in double figures.  

On the night when the Trojans took a 41-35 lead into halftime, you could sense Enfield's frustration with his arms folded while talking with Coach Chris Capko. The feeling was that the Trojans should have had a more considerable lead.  

In the first half, USC shot 61% to Wazzu's 39%, and the Trojans were 4-6 from behind the arc while holding the Cougs to just 1-11.  What kept Wazzu close were USC's twelve first-half turnovers. "We were making up ways to turn the ball over," Enfield said.  Those turnovers led to 15 points for the Cougars, who also converted 10-13 from the free throw line.  
In the end, it would be USC's FT shooting that would come up huge and compliment the defense that held Wazzu to 36% from the field and just 12% from behind the arc. 

After the last game, we noted that Drew Peterson was struggling with his confidence.  On Saturday, with his game still slumping, it got to the point where Enfield made a halftime adjustment inserting Ethan Anderson into the backcourt with Eaddy.  But Drew wasn't the only player to endure some "coaching" from Enfield.  After the Cougars were able to cut the Trojan's lead to 2 with five minutes left to play, it forced a loud and animated 0:50 personal instructional “coaching “course,” for Evan Mobley. "Well, I was mad at Evan because we were switching between man and zone, we went back to man and he let the 3-point shooter shoot a 3 and he didn't challenge the shot. So my conversation for about 50 seconds out of the 60 was to Evan. I wasn't very happy, but Evan came out then and dominated the last four and a half minutes,"
Enfield dialed up a play for Mobley during the timeout, who would get fouled and then hit both free throws out of that timeout.

Earlier I mentioned FT shooting would come up huge in the end for the Trojans.--Well, late in the game, Wazzu tried to steal a possession by intentionally fouling Isaiah Mobley and his 44% free throw shooting.--Isaiah knocked down both of his free throws, and the team, which is one of the nation's poorest from the charity stripe, made six of its last seven down the stretch to preserve the victory.

The Trojans do bring their defense every night under Coach Enfield.--It's who they are. That's this team's identity even when their offense remains inconsistent.   Enfield said after the game, "Some years, a game like this might have slipped away, but our players...#1...they have to defend.  I thought after we called that timeout, the last 4:30 minutes, our defense was outstanding.--And you have to make your free throws, which we did. "We're very happy with the road sweep of the Washington schools; both teams played well against us."

With USC having now won six straight and twelve out of their last thirteen games, with their lone loss being on the road by two points, the Trojans have some breathing room at the top of the standings following Colorado's loss in Berkeley. USC is still a game ahead of UCLA but holds the tiebreaker and is 2 1/2 games up on Oregon, who escaped the Arizona schools with a desert sweep over the weekend.--ASU and Arizona visit Galen Center this upcoming week, beginning with the Sun Devils on Wednesday 5:00 p.m. PT on ESPN2.

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