USC's defense showed up big time last night, as USC held SDSU to just 43 points en route to a 58-43 victory. San Diego State lived up to the billing as a tough, fast and physical defensive team, however it was the Trojan defense that stymied the Aztec's as USC ultimately pulled away in the second half.
USC came out slow, and the largely SDSU crowd, provided a ton of added energy to the Mountain West power. USC seemed frazzled in the early minutes, settling for contested/rushed jump shots, or dribbling directly into traffic hoping for a whistle that was never blown. In fact, it took USC over 10 minutes to reach 10 points. Luckily, the Trojan defense kept the team in the game, thanks in large part to massive defensive efforts from Drew Peterson, Max Agbonkpolo and Joshua Morgan.
Peterson was tasked with the unenviable role of slowing down the Aztec's leading scoring, Matt Bradley, and boy was Drew ready. Bradley finished the game just 1-7 (0-4 from 3) and just 3 total points (his only basket came with 1:20 left and the Trojans up 11). Peterson's length and understanding of Bradley's tendencies were clearly bothersome to the Senior guard. It looked as though Bradley was uncomfortable taking a simple dribble from the perimeter. Peterson was also able to disrupt St. Joe's best perimeter player in Jordan Hall. It appears that Drew will be assigned the opponents best perimeter scorer, which should lead to some very interesting matchups come UCLA, Oregon and Arizona.
USC led SDSU 22-15 (yes, 15!) at the half, and were paced by Isaiah Mobley on the offensive end of things. Aside from one three pointer, Mobley did his damage inside, reverting back to a traditional Forward, and powering through a tough defense. Mobley led all scorers in the first half with 10 points, and ultimately led the game with 18 total points. Mobley was awarded Tournament MVP, after posting a double-double in the championship (he had 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks).
In the second half, Drew Peterson took over. Peterson only had 2 points at the break, but added 14 in the second half, attacking SDSU from all over. Drew was everywhere on the Court and filled the entire stat sheet, finishing with an impressive, 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block. As noted above, his defensive effort was crucial to the Trojan victory, and I love how he is capable of either shouldering the offensive load or distributing.
Chevez Goodwin reached double digits for the 5th consecutive game. Chevez remains incredibly efficient, converting 5-6 from the field, and attacking the offensive glass. Goodwin grabbed three offensive rebounds, two of which led to easy put backs. Goodwin picked up two early fouls, and had to sit out the final 13 minutes of the first half, enter Joshua Morgan.
Morgan was once again a force inside, and grabbed 8 rebounds in only 21 minutes. He is an enforcer, and plays with a toughness that translates well with this team. In a bench role, he can be a bit more aggressive as he does not need to worry as much about foul trouble, and he can really impose his will. This was the shortest rotation Andy has used all year, but it is clear that Morgan will play a big part in this team's success.
We have frequently questioned where USC will go when it needs a bucket. Through 5 games, the answer was simple, Boogie Ellis. Ellis had his worst game of his Trojan career, and finished with only 2 points and 0 assists. I think the calling card of this team will be its ability to go with the hot hand in any given game. Last night it was Isaiah and Drew. The famous Harry Truman quote sums it up nicely for me, "it is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." This team seems content to win, and there are no egos involved. Starting role or bench role, a bunch of guys are getting an opportunity to help the team, and it looks as though they are having a ton of fun. This team has big goals, and they look hell bent on seeing them through.
USC held SDSU to 32% from the field, and a season low 43 points. SDSU will contend for the MWC title (they were predicted to finish a close 2nd to Colorado State), and this win will most likely look better as the season progresses.
While not the most glamorous tournament in the nation, it is certainly nice to see the team hoist a trophy and get comfortable with a pressure filled environment. The Trojans will take on undefeated Utah on Wednesday (Utah takes on #18 BYU tonight), a Ute victory could push them into the rankings for our matchup. I expect the Trojans to move up 3-4 spots in this week's rankings.
6-0 is a good way to start, and I am excited for the next wave of games!