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USC Basketball

USC Scoop's Hoop Report: Yes, The Trojans Are Mentally Tough!

February 22, 2021

Evan Mobley might get all of the headlines, and deservedly so, but make no mistake about it; This is Tahj Eaddy's team.  
"I kind of felt like that throughout the whole season, just felt I could use my voice throughout practice, leading by example, things of that nature.--But you're probably talking about my offensive performance over the last few weeks or so.  It's really been about being more aggressive, understanding that our team, we're playing at a higher level when I'm just being more aggressive offensively.--Not necessarily to score but to make plays for others and draw attention from the defense and things like that. So I'm just trying to be as aggressive as possible, and I'm just trying to keep it rolling." said Eaddy after the game.

Yes, we were, Tahj, and please, keep it rolling! 

On the back of Eaddy's 21 first-half points, USC took a 43-22 halftime lead into the locker room, and the Trojans would then withstand a couple of second-half Oregon comeback attempts and cruise to a convincing 72-58 win on national TV.

Oregon (14-5, 9-4) were coming off a 67-64 home win over Utah on Feb. 20, pushing its winning streak to five games.  The teams were initially to play at the Galen Center on Jan. 30 in their only meeting but were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Ducks' program.--USC lost 77-70 in double overtime at Oregon last season, but they have won four of its last six meetings with the Ducks. 

The victory not only moved USC (19-4, 13-4)  a half-game in front of UCLA (12-3) in the Pac-12 standings, but USC also moved one game ahead of Oregon while maintaining the head-to-head tiebreaker over both teams.  Remember that 2OT-loss in last season's matchup?  It was the difference between USC winning the conference title last season.

Anyone who claims that Monday's 72-58 victory over Oregon wasn't huge is naive or doesn't follow USC basketball closely, although those points are not mutually exclusive.  

The Trojans have yet to experience back-to-back losses on the season and still control their destiny, winning USC's first outright conference championship since 1984-85'.  After the game, Coach Enfield pointed out that, "It was very important tonight to try to win this game just because we only play them once, and to have the tiebreaker over them is important in the league standings. But look, we have four really hard league games left, so although this was a great win and we're really excited to win this game, we can't rest on our laurels and relax.--We have to prepare for the last two weeks of the season."

February has typically been a lousy month for Trojan basketball, but so far, they've only suffered one loss during the month.  With that lone loss still fresh in everyone's minds just two days after losing to Arizona, the fans were wondering how this team would respond during this next tough stretch of games, starting tonight.

My question was answered tonight.  

Yes, the Trojans are mentally tough!

From the opening tip, the Trojans came out swinging with one 3-point punch-shot after another from Eaddy, quickly jumping out to a 13-0 lead and forcing Oregon head coach Dana Altman to call a timeout before the first media horn buzzed.  Eaddy started the USC surge with three straight 3s, and heading into the final minute of the first half, Tahj had scored more points than the Oregon team.--As a team, USC shot 47% from behind the arc converting 10-21.  USC would stretch it out to a 17-1 lead, and the ducks were stuffed by the Trojan defense that helped Oregon miss its first 12 shots to start the game.

Before Galen's empty seats were warm, the Trojans already held a commanding 36-16 lead with 3:42 to play in the first half.  Hopefully those east coast biased writers were still awake around 9-9:30PM EST watching it unfold.

And the team was achieving their success mainly in part to the backcourt play of Eaddy, and wait for it--Drew Peterson, who broke out of his slump coming off the bench with 15 points and playing with that confident swagger leading up to his February malaise.  

After the game, the two spoke with the media; Eaddy said, "We're just showing that we're one of the best teams in the country -- that's really what it's about.--We felt like we let one slip against Arizona.--Just 50-50 balls, offensive rebounds,toughness plays that were very uncharacteristic of us.  We just wanted to let teams know that you can't bully us.--We're just showing that we're fighters. We're not going to give in like that, so we're just trying to keep it rolling."

Drew Peterson said after the game, “Coming off the bench woke me up a bit. I talked to Coach Enfield. I had been shooting poor and lost a little bit of confidence. He told me to get back at it. When I’m getting rebounds and assists, it helps me get my shots to fall and I’m in a better rhythm. I got back to what I was doing earlier in the season.”

Andy made the tough decision, bringing Peterson off the bench, and Drew answered the bell with his 15 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists.  “Having Ethan back and playing well is very important. We challenged him to rebound the ball tonight. He was all over the court. He played like an all-league guard. Drew was just outstanding. We challenged him to rebound the ball. His defensive effort and intensity was much better. They really controlled the game from the guard spot and that was a huge part of our win.”

On a night when Isaiah Mobley could not play due to what's being described as a day-to-day calf strain, Drew led the team in rebounding and would be the team's second-leading scorer on the night.   Evan chipped in with 11 points and five rebounds in a somewhat lackluster, albeit significant, role in the team's win; Evan draws so much attention down low that it leaves the shooters open to shoot and make their shots confidently.  After the game, Drew said that the message was received after being moved to the bench. 

Peterson and [Ethan]Anderson, who struggled at times on offense, played terrific all-around games, "Their defensive effort and intensity were much better.--That's what we expect out of those guys." said Enfield.  "Very proud of them, the way they[the team] responded on short notice.  It's hard to prepare for Oregon in one day, which we had to do because of their unique style.--Their matchup zone and full-court pressure, and I thought our players did a terrific job of paying attention to the scouting report, and they were very focused and played very hard tonight. Very proud of them the way they responded on short notice," he said. 

One more player to single out who is starting to find his role on the team, and who also made some big plays when needed is Max Agbonkpolo.  After the Ducks had cut the lead to 10 with around 3 minutes to play, Max, drained a corner three and the threat was over. 

The Trojans next four games are against the teams behind them in the standings starting with a trip to Boulder to take on Colorado this Thhursday, and then Utah on Saturday.--To be followed by Stanford at Galen next week before wrapping up the regular season across town against the Bruins.

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USC Scoop's Hoop Report: Yes, The Trojans Are Mentally Tough!

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