Trojans Cruise to 20th Win
USC made quick work of Stanford Wednesday night crusing to a 79-42 victory over the Cardinal. The story of the game was the Trojan defense, as Stanford was held to 25% shooting on the night (15-59). After a sloppy and disorganized start to the game, a Drew Peterson dunk at the 16:26 mark gave USC its first lead of the game, and they never looked back. A balanced offensive attack propelled USC (20-6) to a 19 point lead at the break, thanks in large part to an 18-1 run that spanned roughly nine minutes midway through the first half.
The Trojans eliminated any hope of a Stanford comeback early in the second half with a barrage of 3s from Peterson and Tahj Eaddy. Eaddy, after a quiet first half finished with a team high 16 points after knocking down 4 threes in the second half. Peterson, once again flirted with a triple double adding 15 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. We were hopeful that the Utah game would allow Drew to regain much of his confidence, and it is extremely encouraging to see him bobbing and weaving through the paint with the precision and elegance we have become accustomed to. A host of other Trojans added to the blowout, as 4 other Trojans added at least 7 points. Pac12 Player of the Year frontrunner Evan Mobley added 10 points on 4-9 shooting. Fellow front court players Chevez Goodwin and Isaiah Mobley chipped in 8 and 7 points respectively. It was particularly enocuraging to see Isaiah make 5-6 FT attempts, a major cause for concern as we head towards Tournament play.
In total, 11 Trojans graced the scoring collumn, and another strong outing from uber-athletic sophomore Max Agbonkpolo. Agbonkpolo is a matchup nightmare as a 6'9" wing with incredibly quickness and leaping ability. When in control he is yet another weapon that Coach Enfield has at his disposal. In addition to his improved offensive efficiency, Max has an inherent advantage on the defensive end, frequently disrupting smaller guards with his length. His role has steadily increased over the season, and I suspect that Agbonkpolo will play a critical role in this team's postseason and future success.
Towards the end of the game Andy was able to get some meaninful minutes for Joshua Morgan, Boubicar Coulibaly and Reese Waters. Morgan, the Long Beach State Transfer, threw down a quick dunk for his first points as a Trojan, and Coulibaly made both of his field goal attempts, including an alley-oop dunk on a beautiful dish from Noah Baumann. Both bigs will see an increased role with the certain departure of Evan Mobley to the NBA draft.
For the Cardinal, it was their 4th consecutive loss and a potential dagger to their tournament hopes. Despite a few impressive wins (most notably a blowout win over now #8 ranked Alabama) the Cardinal's post season hopes rest solely on a Pac12 Tournament championship. We expected to see a healthy lineup for Stanford in the rematch, but Oscar Da Silva, Bryce Wills and Daejon Davis were once again sidelined with various injuries. No Cardinal player reached double figures. Future lottery pick Zaire Williams was held to just 2 points on 1-8 shooting, in what I am sure was a dissapointing return trip home for the Sierra Canyon product.
The Trojans move into 2nd place in the Pac and still have an opportunity to capture the regular season title. With its win over UCLA, Oregon has claimed the top spot in the conference, and simply needs to defeat Oregon State Sunday night in Corvalis. However, if the Beavers upset the Ducks the winner of Saturday's game between USC and UCLA will win the conference crown.
Overall, a very impressive and encouraging game for the Trojans, especially coming off a dissapointing roadtrip. As has been the case all year long, if this team makes shots from the outside and is able to relieve some of the pressure on Evan they are very difficult to defend.
20 wins is an impressive feat for a team that was picked to finish 6th in the Conference. We are a lock for the tournament, and will need the next few weeks to really lock in on both sides of the ball. Saturday's game against the Bruins will require discipline, effort and physicality. Mick Cronin's teams play hard, and the Trojans need to be ready to play.
Until then, Fight On!